River Mill Park will get new public washrooms ahead of the summer season, but at the cost of several trees.
A two-unit automated washroom facility is set to be installed in the Huntsville park sometime before May 1, between the parking lot, bandshell, and playground. However, five large evergreen trees will need to be cut down near the site, according to Tarmo Uukkivi, Huntsville’s Director of Operations and Protective Services.
In a report to town council, Uukkivi says a contracted arborist deems the trees are at high risk of falling or losing large limbs. Previous pruning work to clear Hydro lines has shifted the balance of the trees, and made them more susceptible to disease.
“It’s always unfortunate when we have to take out mature trees,” says Uukkivi. “However we do have to weigh that against public safety and the safety of the property.”
Uukkivi says that means the trees could potentially hurt people walking underneath, as well as damage town property such as the soon-to-be installed washrooms.
“Now we’ve got imbalanced trees that are top heavy, or heavy to the north side, combined with rotten cores,” says Uukkivi. “So sadly, these are some of the mature trees along the hydro line, but for safety purposes those mature trees would have to be cut down in their entirety.”
Several councillors expressed regrets that the large trees would have to go, but ultimately decided safety would have to come first. Council approved the proposal, which also includes a walking trail, and planting several trees and Indigenous plants such as cedar and sweetgrass, to replace the lost greenery.
Uukkivi says there will be multiple access points to the washroom to make it as accessible as possible to users of all abilities.
The walking trail will run through the park from West St. to the new washrooms. Uukkivi says it will initially be formed from the mulch of the felled trees, but will later be smoothed over and turned into an accessible path. He adds the washrooms will be wheelchair-accessible from the parking lot from day one.