River valley trees illegally cut down in west Edmonton

Dozens of trees in Edmonton’s river valley have been cut down in an area where trees were damaged twice before.

“Obviously we’re concerned. Nobody should take it upon themselves to remove any trees in the river valley,” said Derek Kramar.

Kramar is the president of Parkview Community League. He says he got a letter from the city notifying him of the stumps now lining a section of Valleyview Drive, which sits just across the river from Hawrelak Park.

“I can understand. The views are wonderful, they’re great views. There’s lots of places on their bank that I stop and look.”

But he says that doesn’t make it right.

“Nobody should remove trees just because they want it. It should be more of a community-led effort.”

He said he’s disappointed in the act, especially because so many people are drawn to the area for its connection to nature.

“We purposely moved here because of the river valley.”

Councillor Andrew Knack learned about the incident from a concerned community member of April 10.

“It’s a major concern for a variety of reasons, one of the most important being bank stability,” he explained.

“You expect that people aren’t going to go and damage public property like this, and such important public property when it comes to our trees. It’s really frustrating to see this happen on a few different occasions.”

Back in 2014, about $20,000 worth of trees were cut down in the same part of the river valley. At the time, the city put signs up – alerting people that it’s illegal to damage public trees.

City officials then believed the trees were chopped down to improve someone’s view.

Trees would once again be attacked in 2017 along Valleyview Drive – this time using a chemical commonly found in the herbicide Roundup.

The city found a number of elm and birch trees had been poisoned, and had to remove them.

“Last time, I think the actions that were taken weren’t maybe quite strong enough and I think we really need to think about escalating what we do as a city to ensure this never happens again,” Knack said.

This time, Knack said staff are trying to see if the police will get involved and perhaps use security footage from homes in the area to identify a culprit.

And just in case someone attempts to do it again, the city will go a step further.

“They did suggest that they are going to look at putting up some type of surveillance, some type of cameras that could be there more permanently,” Knack said.

“If we could catch the person doing it, there are substantial fines that would occur from that.”

The fines go as high as $100,000 and the person responsible for the damage could be sentenced to two years in jail.

The Ward 1 councillor said the city will also put up more signage in the area – and also replant the trees using a fast-growing variety.

“It’s not acceptable for this to be happening every couple of years. If that’s going to become a trend, let’s see if we can end it now and make it the last time this happens.”

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