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The ‘desertification’ of downtown Montreal

By Sergio Martinez

Mutilated trunks on the sidewalk on Ste. Catherine

of Montreal" published in 1998 under the adminis"For it was im- tration of former Mayor Tremblay. Since the possible not to be Gerald text hasn't been disaltaken by the lowed, I have good reato believe that it is beauty of these sons still Montreal policy. young trees in full Why bring about this document issued under a health." (probably de-(Jean Giono, now servedly) forgotten The Man Who Mayor? To answer that, revise some of the Planted Trees) let's statements made then: "The urban forest lends would have liked to personality and charm to start my article with the City. Think for a mothis quotation, how- ment of the stark monotever, to be honest, it's ony of a cityscape devoid not my idea. Since I always of trees!" Well, if one warned my students walks around Sainte against the temptation of Catherine or other plagiarism I will first give streets in the downtown credit where credit is due: area these days it is prethe quote was on the first cisely that desolate landpage of a City of Montreal scape what that person report called "Tree Policy will see. Trees have a diffi-


• April 8, 2017

Almost an entire block without a single tree on Ste. Catherine

cult life amid the many hazards of an urban milieu; the document I have cited also mentions that: "trees planted in an urban environment are often subjected to considerable stress which can put their health, if not their survival, at risk." Everyone knows that and therefore it is important the tree policy be seen not just as a statement of good intentions, but as a call to action as well. The City document points to the particular case of the urban tree: "The situation is all the more worrisome given that the urban forest cannot regenerate on its own." This assertion means that someone—of course the City or in this particular case the VilleMarie Borough—must take care of replacing the

trees that are dead for different reasons. It is regarding the actual implementation of the tree policy where the problem lies. I have contacted on more than one occasion the city councillor for the Peter-McGill district of Ville-Marie, and he has explained to me that now the solution to the problem depends on the city bureaucrat in charge of tree planting and replacement—that was more than a year ago! I don't have reasons to think that the councillor is lying, but then, what should I think: that indeed the city is run by faceless bureaucrats who don't pay the slightest attention to what elected officials tell them? (Politicians come and go, some bureaucrats would say) That

The former parking lot of the Children's Hospital was supposed to become a green area, but there is nothing clear on that yet

these bureaucrats would pay even less attention to ordinary citizens like me or others who from time to time ask about trees or other problems? (Unlike politicians, bureaucrats don't respond to anyone, nobody has voted them in office. Therefore they can treat citizens with total contempt). But the time for recriminations or mutual blaming between elected officials and bureaucrats should be left for a later date. Why? Simply because spring is coming, which means it is planting season (the other occasion to plant trees is in the fall). Therefore, if they really want to make a rather inexpensive (compared to others quite extravagant ones) contribution to Montreal

on its 375th anniversary, why don't the borough bureaucrats replace the numerous trees missing on Sainte Catherine, de Maisonneuve, Saint Mathieu, Lincoln, Simpson, Atwater, just to name just a few of streets going on the way of becoming "desertified"?

Trees having cut, and never replaced, a common view in the Ville-Marie borough


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