Four elm trees on Hwy. 4 saved from destruction

Bonnie Sitter holds a photo of an elm tree she fondly calls The Grand Old Lady.

Bonnie Sitter holds a photo of an elm tree she fondly calls The Grand Old Lady.

HEATHER BOA Bullet News HENSALL – A victorious battle that saved a string of elm trees along Hwy. 4 near Hensall from destruction has proven to activist Bonnie Sitter there is power in the people.

Nearly two years after the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) marked five trees for removal because they stood too close to the highway for public safety, it has relented to a local campaign led by Sitter to save the trees. In a letter dated Nov. 29, the ministry acknowledged that four trees would remain while one would be removed because it was not healthy.

“To me it shows that if somebody offers leadership and people say ‘I like that idea, I’m going to help’ then there is power in the people,” she said. “It wasn’t just Bonnie that did it. It was teamwork.”

Sitter first realized the MTO had plans for the trees, two of which are estimated to be more than 125 years old, while heading out for a cross-country ski in early 2011. She was shocked to see the trees were marked for removal, and vowed they wouldn’t go without a fight. By March, she had convinced the ministry to commission the University of Guelph to complete a summer health study of the trees.

“We fought hard enough that they agreed these trees would be assessed,” Sitter said.

In April 2012, the findings were delivered: four of the trees were healthy and one that was unhealthy would need to be removed. However, it also slated a healthy tree for removal, saying it stood too close to the road.

“If it’s finished its life, that’s fine, I don’t mind it being taken down. My protest was taking down this tree, which was at least 125 years old and healthy,” she said, noting research shows that trees contribute $162,000 worth of ecological value to the planet for every 50 years of their life.

When she discovered a healthy tree would be removed, she gathered her supporters, wrapped a banner with her phone number around the tree, relaunched a Facebook site, began a petition, started a letter writing campaign, and contacted media and her local MPP.

“If the tree is healthy and it’s stood there for 125 years and it survived the wind storms and the snow storms and the ice storms and everything else, I think it deserves to live.

The tree works for us every day and asks nothing in return but to be left alone,” she said.

She said trees shouldn’t be removed because drivers on the 80-km/h straight stretch of road risk leaving the roadway as a result of speed or inattention.

Written by on January 2, 2013 in Exeter, South Huron - 1 Comment

One Comment on "Four elm trees on Hwy. 4 saved from destruction"

  1. Sonia Jackson January 3, 2013 at 11:01 am · Reply

    Way to go, Bonnie.

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