Will this be the death of Oakville’s last scenic roadway? Lakeshore Rd. West Construction planned

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UPDATE: April 12, 2021

The Town has posted details on their website, for the proposed road construction and tree removal on Lakeshore Road West.

 

Please read the excellent summary of the project, and key concerns on the Coronation Park Residents Association website: http://www.coronationparkresidents.com/Current%20Issues/

 

In the latest proposal, 96 trees are slated to be removed.

The “preferred plan” will be going to Council in June.

https://www.oakville.ca/residents/lakeshore-road-west-improvements-class-ea.html

**Online comments will be accepted until April 20th.** but please continue to provide your feedback.

 In addition please:

  • Register your comments with Townclerk@oakville.ca

  • Call your Councillor or better yet, send them an email with your comments. membersofcouncil@oakville.ca

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Will this be the Death of Oakville’s last scenic roadway?

One of the joys of living in Oakville is being able to take in the beauty of the lake, wander through our historic downtown strip, and experience the arching canopy of mature trees lining Lakeshore Road, as part of a daily leisurely outing. But the scenic route along the lake is under threat unless residents speak up.

The Town of Oakville is planning road construction along Lakeshore Road West between Dorval and Mississaga St. in Bronte..  After strong public outcry to an earlier plan in 2019, Town staff has been working on revisions.   But to this writer, it looks like they have once again missed the mark.  An updated plan from the Town presented March 16th is short on specifics and still calls for removal of 116 mature trees, 70 of which are over 20 cm in diameter.

Whether you live along the Lakeshore or not, we want to make sure that you hear about the latest plan so that you can provide feedback to your councillor and the Mayor.  The Town’s proposal is not 100% clear yet, but what we’ve seen doesn’t look good.

The first version of a Lakeshore Road plan was presented at a public meeting in May 2018.  Despite being labelled Lakeshore West “Improvement” Study, local residents were alarmed at the dramatic changes planned for the historic Kings Highway route through Oakville.

Public outcry was loud and swift, to the planned removal of hundreds of trees, widening of the road to “modern standards” and multiple expropriations of private property. After that response, the Town went back to the drawing board. Later, in 2019, a seemingly positive outcome, was the Town’s agreement to do a Scenic Corridor Study, that Oakvillegreen hoped would provide a much more sensitive approach to the planned construction.

At an online public stakeholder meeting on March 16, 2021, a revised Lakeshore Road plan was presented via webinar by Town’s Engineering staff and consultants.

What was missing were any actual plans for review by stakeholders before the webinar.  Two weeks after that meeting, no detailed plans have been shared.  The Scenic Corridor Study report that we felt held promise, seems to have left little impression.

During the recent summary update, it was reported that less property would be expropriated, but with no plans to review, this was tough to verify. However, only when asked directly, was it revealed that 110 trees would still be cut down for the construction being recommended.  Trees are the number one asset identified in critical features of a Scenic Corridor, but questions remain: Where are these doomed trees located? How many of these are heritage, mature trees? Tree protection is paramount for a healthy urban forest. No number of “replacement trees” of questionable heritage is really going to replace the historic giants.  Your grandchildren, or great grandchildren may one day see replacement trees at maturity, but once the existing trees are cut down, they are gone for our lifetimes.

Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are all users of Lakeshore Road. Admittedly, safe active transportation options for those walking and cycling needs to be addressed. On the Town’s list were sidewalks on each side of the road PLUS a multi-use pathway along the route.  But to include ALL of these features without weighing the impact to mature trees misses the reason that we walk and cycle along Lakeshore in the first place.

The Town is planning for a “full urbanization” of the roadway, which includes curbs and gutters and the accompanying stormwater grey infrastructure, that will require invasive construction, more impermeable surfaces and resulting grade changes.   Ironically, much research is singing the advantages of natural assets or “green vs, grey” infrastructure that is more effective and cheaper to maintain, while performing the same stormwater management functions.

With numerous other east-west options for car travel  (Speers, Rebecca and soon the Wyecroft  bridge ) why is it necessary to strip Lakeshore road of its trees and character in the name of “improvement”?  Removal of these trees and the full urbanization of infrastructure will increase speeds along this road, due to the stripping of documented calming features. Induced demand; Build it and they will come…even if you don’t want them to!

Do we really want the historic Lakeshore Road to look like another urban thoroughfare? As an identified historic Scenic Corridor along the shores of Lake Ontario, one would think that the Town could have landed on a more sensitive plan to preserve historic character and trees of this meandering, beautiful road.

The current plan, that stakeholders still have not seen, will be going to Council in just 6 weeks (May 2021). Oakvillegreen just learned that the Town will be seeking “public feedback” online for one week only in early April.  We are not even sure of the format for the feedback. Clearly, the Town’s engineering department wants to get this done and started, but we are questioning why the rush? After the Town took two years re-drawing a plan, the community needs more than a week to understand the plan and provide feedback.

It feels like the Town is managing the public feedback process to limit the input via a short time frame and online process. Full disclosure and a sincere response to public feedback all through a climate crisis lens, is all we are asking.

Please share this news with Friends & Family and call your Councillor.

Karen Brock

President, Oakvillegreen