Petition to protect Aylmer’s trees rallies residents
Following the clearcutting of trees just north of des Allumettières Boulevard along Vanier Road, a petition raced through social media late in 2019. The petition called for the protection of trees and lands in Boucher Forest and other plots of land in Aylmer.
While the wording of the petition was not entirely accurate, the important point is the citizen engagement.
Aylmerites rallied for more forest protection. They also want new and affordable housing close to shops, as is made clear by the number of new homes and business areas being built. The two don’t go together easily. How does a city ensure that new homes and businesses can be built, while protecting mature trees? This is not a new challenge for cities; models exist and professionals at the city surely have a handle on how to create the framework for this co-existence of urban development and protection of natural resources.
As Marianne Strauss, director of the Boucher Forest Foundation points out in her letter of page 14, this is the year for protecting more of Boucher Forest. More than half the land called Boucher Forest is owned by the city. The privately owned part is the portion where residents and the city can really work with industry to create the next phases that everyone wants. Plans to build small forest rental touristic dwellings have been proposed. Plans to build forest-friendly businesses that co-exist with the wild of the rest of the forest are also on the table. What people have made clear that they do not want is clearcutting for more big-box stores. Yet, the big-box stores are full of shoppers and cookie-cutter homes are occupied all around the Boucher Forest. So it is entirely understandable that private developers aim for highest profit with least expense.
Near the forest, just across the street along Vanier Road, there are vast residential communities being built. Because Vanier Road is slated to be a ring-road, eventually leading to a bridge across the Ottawa River, an easement is reserved along the east side of Vanier. There are mature trees in the easement between the backs of the residential neighbourhoods and the road itself.
Residents are asking what will happen to the remaining land in the easement and undeveloped lands. Some are for sale, zoned for more residences.
With some vision and the renewed energy to gently develop the Boucher Forest as a protected public green space, can Vanier Road become a boulevard with several multi-use trails along the east side in the easement? Can there be little shops there too?
Is there enough public mobilization this year to populate city meetings with involved residents? Will these people also join committees and bring their passion to working committees and meetings that will produce a Boucher Forest and Le Plateau neighbourhoods that everyone can be happy with? The mobilization of Aylmerites around the petition can’t stop with an online signature. The next phase takes works, it takes collaboration with the owners of the lands and it takes positive communication about how to achieve the common goals of a greener Aylmer.