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'Nature always pays the price': Park users lament loss of trees to decommission Springbank Dam

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The long-running saga of London’s ill-fated Springbank Dam continues to haunt taxpayers and nature lovers. Several dozen mature trees along the Thames Valley Parkway in the area of the dam are being cut down.

It’s all to make way for construction work to decommission the dam.

“Nature always pays the price,” said Springbank Park user Rebecca St. Pierre.

“I’m pleased about the restoration of the dam, and positive environmental impact that’s going to happen,” she added. “It seems ironic that we’re going to have a negative environmental impact by bringing in these big pieces of equipment. I would just hope the city would reconsider which trees are going to be cut down.”

On Monday, many of the smaller and medium sized trees along the Thames River bank west of the dam were being removed by a contractor. Passersby found themselves navigating through the debris on their morning walk or bike ride.

Some expressed disappointment by the tree destruction happening before their eyes.

Trees are being cut down at Springbank Park in London, Ont. to make way for the decommissioning of Springbank Dam in summer 2024. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV News London)

“That’s too bad, we’re totally against having trees cut down,” said one woman, whose husband agreed.

“This kind of stuff, it’s always surprising just how far it goes. Next thing you know, somebody’s building a high-rise apartment over there or something,” he said.

“It’s sad,” said another onlooker. “They were there before the humans were and we should try to leave them where they are."

“I guess you have to cull you know the trees that are maybe too old or something like that, as long as they replace them,” said another park stroller.

Forty-four trees in all are proposed to be removed, including 12 mature silver maples along the pathway. Their massive trunks are already marked with a single diagonal line of white spray paint.

The city said given their age and condition, and the impact of construction, there’s no other choice.

Trees are being cut down at Springbank Park in London, Ont. to make way for the decommissioning of Springbank Dam in summer 2024. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV News London)

“There’s a number of tees that are actually at end of life, so they are in significant decline right now,” explained Paul Yeoman, the city’s director of Parks and Forestry.

He added, “We’ve had three arborists onsite involved and all opined the same, that the trees had a lot of structure and health issues. A lot of it has to do too though with the construction impacts that would be interfaced with the work that’s going to be occurring.”

As part of restoration, 52 new trees are proposed to be replanted around Springbank Park.

Constructed in 1929 to support a water reservoir and provide recreational opportunities, the dam ceased operating in 2000 when it was damaged by heavy rains and debris. It was rebuilt in 2008, but during a test run it failed and became locked in the open position.

It would never operate again. Decommission work is scheduled for this summer.

“I understand the city wants to keep Londoners safe, and they should,” said St. Pierre. But I would also ask then to think about the trees. They really are important to us. We are the Forest City,” she said. 

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