Arborist urges Toronto residents to call city about dying trees

June 21, 2016

By: CBC News

A Toronto arborist is urging members of the public to call the city if they see a tree in a poor health that could pose to a risk to any park visitors, after a man in his 30s was killed by a falling branch Friday in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Amy Turner said Monday that members of the public should call 311 if they have concerns.

“The users are the ones who have a keen eye and who are there,” she told CBC News. “Obviously, they are not trained experts, but if you do happen to notice something that does concern you, you should absolutely make a call.”

Turner said the city responds to calls made to 311. According to the statement released by the city on the weekend, urban forestry staff responded to more than 160 service requests, performed more than 120 inspections and carried out more than 240 work orders relating to trees in Trinity Bellwoods Park in the past 10 years.

Turner said ideally the city would inspect trees by climbing them to get a closer look at any deterioration, but acknowledged the cost of doing so would be prohibitive.

“There’s a limit to what you can assess at ground level. The next stage in tree assessment would be to climb, which would be more expensive. They wouldn’t be able to do a climbing assessment of this whole park at a reasonable cost.”

At a glance, Turner said there are trees at Trinity Bellwoods Park in need of care. But unless a tree has physical symptoms of damage, such as dead wood at the top of a tree, she said it’s tough to tell if it could pose a safety risk.

“A tree can be in decline and can die without branches falling off on people. That’s quite typical.”

The tree that lost the branch was last inspected in November 2014. It was determined to be healthy, but the branch that fell is being analyzed by city staff.

Turner said high volumes of people in a park mean there is obviously more of a risk if branches fall. “This park is heavily used. You walk through Bellwoods and there are people everywhere,” she said.

And she said trees in urban settings suffer more than in the forest due to a number of factors, such as lack of water from drought conditions, construction projects and pedestrians repeatedly walking on their roots.

Toronto police have not identified the man killed by the branch, but said he was a French citizen in Toronto on a work permit. Witnesses said he was sitting under the tree with his wife when the branch fell.

Police said he jumped to protect his wife from the falling branch when it hit him.

Gleb Savchenko, a registered massage therapist, and Amanda Donato, an instructor at Yoga Tree, said the death appeared to be the result of a freak accident. They were practicing yoga on Monday near the spot where he was killed.

“It is very unfortunate what happened,” Savchenko said. “And it goes to show, you never know.”

Donato said she believes such an accident is unlikely to happen in the same place twice. “What are the chances that it will happen again within the same time frame? I have too much trust in the trees,” she said.

The city said it is responsible for more than 4 million trees. It estimates it will prune more than 80,000 of them this year alone.

By: CBC News

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