Despite a concerted effort by one neighbour to stop the Hunt Club golf course from cutting down 41 oak trees on the club’s property, Mark Denington said he learned late last month that the Hunt Club’s permit to remove the trees was granted by the city and the trees are likely to be removed by the end of February.
But he said he’s not going to stop fighting their removal – and that he will be keeping an eye on the club and the city in the future should they try to remove more.
Denington’s backyard backs onto the private golf course and a large amount of the trees slated for removal are directly adjacent to his property. But his rally against the removal of the trees and disappointment with the permit stem from several reasons, he said, not just how he will be affected.
“It’s going to dramatically affect the environment on my property. We are nature lovers, we have wildlife that comes onto our property,” he said. “But this is not just about me. There is a much bigger picture here.”
Of concern, he said, is that the city appears to be more stringent with applications from private citizens to remove trees than it is with entities like the golf course.
“The city has very clear rules in place and if you as a homeowner were to apply to the city to cut down a healthy tree from your property … if the city deems that they are healthy, they are really, really reluctant to cut it down unless there is a really good reason,” Denington said. “And the golf course’s reason is so they can grow better grass.
“Do I really give a rat’s ass if they have nice grass to play golf on? And should that be a good enough reason for them to not play by the rules that everyone else has to play by?”
Denington had hoped for intervention from his city councillor, or a public meeting.
Instead, Denington received correspondence from Ward 36 councillor Gary Crawford stating that the club initially wanted to remove 200 trees.
“This figure comprised a combination of healthy and diseased trees as well as trees significantly damaged by the ice storm of 2013,” Crawford wrote in a letter dated Jan. 29, but released Jan. 26. “I’ve met with senior staff from Urban Forestry, SJM Arboricultural Consulting, and the General Manager of the Hunt Club. Together we have reduced the number of proposed Private Tree Bylaw removals on the golf course to 21 healthy trees, and 19 diseased or damaged trees.”
Crawford wrote that the Hunt Club has more than 3,000 trees on their 100-acre property and that he was told by the club’s general manager that the club has spent $30,000 on replanting since 2012.
“The Hunt Club also outlined their move toward a more environmentally responsible model than the typical approach to golf course management. In 2013 they initiated a turf replanting program which involves less watering, and significantly less pesticide and fertilizer use.”
In an email last week, Crawford said his office “received roughly 30 calls/emails regarding this application – the majority of which were in opposition, while some constituents were just looking for more information.”
A letter from Toronto Urban Forestry’s Mark Ventresca points to the application to remove 200 trees, and the final tally of 41 to be removed as an example of why the city has tree removal by-laws in place – “to prevent the unnecessary removal of trees.”
“The City recognizes that it is less than ideal to remove healthy trees,” he wrote. “The Hunt Club represents an impressive green space in the middle of an urban community. Urban Forestry met with Councillor Crawford, the Hunt Club’s general manager and property manager, and their consulting arborist to ensure that timed and strategic plantings occur which provide for the continuous health of the City’s tree canopy.”
But Denington isn’t convinced. He said that he is fine with the removal of unhealthy trees, but is skeptical of the golf course’s plans for healthy trees in the future.
“My fear is that this isn’t over,” he said.