Over 50,000 trees have come down at a $51-75 million guesstimate for replacing them. “We don’t know the true figures; we are still in recovery mode,” explained Christopher Elliott, Parks Administration Supervisor, City of Brampton in a presentation to the Heart Lake residents at their bi-monthly meeting on the first Tuesday in February. This community, along with the one to the east of Heart Lake Road and north of Bovaird, were the two worst hit wards in Brampton during Ice Storm 2013.
“On the evening of December 21st, our forestry supervisor had heard the forecast and decided to drive around the City with a crew, just to check things out,” began Christopher. “They came upon a damaged tree, just a small one, so they decided to take the chainsaw out and cut it apart. Not even 20 minutes passed when three very large trees fell around him and literally blocked them in. They had to drive on a lawn just to get out. The evening went on from there.
The devastation is massive. We’ve figured a conservative 50,000 trees have been affected. Some came right down, some have broken branches, and some may yet come down as they are not stable going forward into the future.” City officials haven’t had a chance to get out there and truly assess the aftermath. Not only has the weather been extremely cold with snowfall covering affected areas, the City is still in a state of emergency and will remain so for several months.
The City and its Parks and Forestry division have divided recovery efforts into five phases. Phase 1 involved 50 contracted crews along with City crews to open up hundreds of the 3,500 streets in Brampton which were impassable in the days immediately following the ice storm. Phase 2 continued clearing efforts which included obstructed stop signs, intersections, fire hydrants and highly concentrated public access areas.
Since January 13, the City has been in Phase 3 as crews are combing each of the 3,500 streets looking for dangerous danglers and making sure they get safely to the ground. Debris crews are loading curbside piles into dump trucks and delivering them to dumping areas around town.
There’s a web map at Brampton.ca that shows where the City is working. But, with the huge snowfall burying most of the ground debris, citizens should get used to the fact that broken branches, cut trees, logs and stumps will be part of the landscape well into spring, or longer. Phase 3 is estimated to take 14 to 16 weeks, and probably longer if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
The City has received over 5,600 calls about the storm through its 311 lines. Though the City usually responds to such calls within 24 hours, these have not been attended. “We’re not ignoring them,” Christopher assured everyone, as he explained staff has listened to the calls and those deemed as emergencies were given priority. He continued, as the crews keep working the grid, most of their concerns will be dealt with and, when the City is no longer in a state of emergency, residential calls will be handled.
The trails in most parks are now accessible, but the open spaces are closed and expected to remain closed for the rest of the year, likely not reopening until spring 2015. “What you’ve seen on the streets of Brampton, magnify that three times and that’s what the parks are looking like right now.” Christopher explained that some City staff have turned their attention to the water courses, considered as Phase 4. Helicopters have flown along all the creeks and rivers to assess the situation, as any tree debris damming these waters must be cleared to assure no flooding occurs when the weather warms up.
What Christopher kept emphasizing, and most Bramptonians need to understand, “What you see standing may still need to come down. If a tree experienced 30% or greater damage, it is not going to survive; for the public’s safety, it has to come down.” Christopher explained that any tree with a red X, though it may have been trimmed and pruned, is marked to come down, especially if it’s an ash.
The final phase is to replant the canopy. Though those efforts seem a long time away, thoughts and education efforts have begun. Christopher assured everyone that monoculture plantings of the past have already been phased out by the City of Brampton, so it’s unlikely the streetscapes, when replanted, will be single species oriented.
Shawn Patille of Wildthing Naturescapes also made a presentation to the Heart Lake residents and promised to be available to them for their personal replanting efforts. Shawn has accepted becoming Enrich Magazine’s garden expert to further assist with communication and education efforts for all Brampton residents.
It may take several years for planting to begin, but the time will allow for extensive planning.