Roncesvalles will be designed to the top City standard for main streets, says Councillor Gord Perks. The design will follow two key priorities: 1) a strong public realm and 2) an expanded canopy of healthy trees.
Councillor Perks has previously expressed uncertainty about funding for the enhanced streetscape, but he now says he knows where the money can be found once budget room is freed up due to new infrastructure funds. With the confirmation of federal funding last month, he will now have the opportunity to prove it.
UPDATE (Oct. 16): At the Sunnyside Community Association’s AGM on Wednesday, Councillor Perks confirmed that about 120 new trees will be planted along the entire length of Roncesvalles, in healthy conditions. These trees will be planted at grade if possible (such opportunities exist mainly where the sidewalk is to be widened, at the transit stops), but most will likely be planted near grade, with a slightly raised planting configuration, surrounded by a concrete lip, to allow the root ball sufficient clearance over the underground utilities.
While this is very good news, Councillor Perks regrettably says there appear to be few opportunities for a full Living Sidewalk, where the street’s stormwater drainage would be integrated with the tree’s root system, so that water first goes to the trees instead of our combined sewers. This is because there are large utility conduits under the sidewalk, whose locations could not be fully confirmed until after the completion of underground surveys, conducted over the summer. Federal law gives utility companies a right-of-way on our streets, which means they cannot be compelled to move their services. Urban Forestry says a smaller-scale Living Sidewalk remains possible between Neepawa and Grenadier and between Geoffrey and Westminister, but this project would still need funding above what Councillor Perks is currently seeking.
Councillor Perks said that existing healthy trees will be preserved in their tree planters. Unhealthy or immature trees will be replaced with new trees planted in the sidewalk. He defined a “healthy” tree as one that you could not quite get one arm around (we guesstimate about 20 cm in diameter or more). Urban Forestry says these mature trees cannot be moved without killing them. The BIA and the community have previously expressed a strong preference for preserving the healthy tree canopy, although one could argue that a new tree planted in proper conditions would quickly catch up with a healthy, but young enough tree contained in a planter, such that the loss of a healthy tree in this case would be a reasonable short term investment in the long term canopy. In any case, Councillor Perks confirmed that over the long term, the “tree coffins” will be phased out, as trees die naturally and are replaced with new trees, planted at or near grade, as above.
The City’s streetscape designers are currently seeking community input about local priorities and local conditions. Your input or questions can be sent directly to Councillor Gord Perks or to the BIA (firstname.lastname@example.org). We will ensure that your comments are sent to the right people at the City. The BIA also encourages community members to discuss these questions with neighbours, fellow merchants, at your residents’ association meetings, at church, and at other public gatherings. Roncesvalles Renewed, a partnership of local community organizations, is hosting online discussions, and invites your participation. More information about the reconstruction is available here and here.