Frank Pap shook his head as the first of five tall trees were being toppled Tuesday morning to make way for a lane behind Prairie Avenue in Port Coquitlam.
“It’s not a happy moment,” he said.
The Norfolk Street resident lives next to a city-owned easement flush with flora including the more than 100-foot high trees, overgrown bushes and grass that runs between Norfolk and Finley streets on the north side of Prairie.
“It’s too late for that tree,” said Pap. “It’s a 150 years of something that was doing us good, but the city doesn’t seem to think it’s important, especially with everybody worried about global warming.
“It’s ridiculous that everybody on the planet seems to have a problem with [climate change], and the city decides, ‘no, no, it’s OK because there’s no option to us.’ They just want to flex their muscle, and that’s all it is.”
A new home being built at 1601 Prairie is required to have its parking access in the rear of the property, which means a lane needs to be built to connect to it. The homes on the block currently have driveways facing Prairie which the city considers dangerous.
Pap said the city’s original plan was to build the lane to the home from Finley Street because it was only three houses away and would have eliminated just one significant tree. But in a notice to area residents, the city said it was going to build the alley from Norfolk behind six homes while installing a new storm drainage system to Finley.
“They chose to save this one tree here and not the other four, which doesn’t make sense,” said Pap while standing on Finley Street.
He feels the trees provided a much needed sound barrier for the homes because Prairie Avenue is a busy thoroughfare and traffic has increased.
“With having 5,000 homes up the hill [on Burke Mountain] here we’re going to need the trees where the traffic is going to be. We’re going to have a lot more traffic coming down Prairie Avenue,” said Pap. “It’s going to get worse once you lose these trees.”
But that traffic is a big reason why Port Coquitlam wants to build the lane. Chief administrative officer Kristen Dixon said eventually it will span the entire block anyway once other homes on the block are rebuilt. Dixon also said it made more sense to connect the storm sewer system to Finley than Norfolk.
To compensate for the loss of the trees, the city intends to plant replacements, likely as part of pending improvements for Prairie Avenue scheduled to be done in 2021.
“They’re going to plant them on Prairie, and what are they going to plant? Little, spindly things that are about three inches or four inches at the base and hoping they’re going to grow," said Pap. "Then all of a sudden those roots start lifting the sidewalks and we just have more repairs to do. It’s unfortunate, there does seem to be any forethought in what needs to happen.”
City director of engineering Forrest Smith said the project’s estimated cost is $130,000 with the new home's developer paying a portion based on the property’s frontage.