CNIB weighs in on lack of side­walks in Lawrence Park

Plan to re­con­struct local roads will spare tree canopy, but safety re­mains a con­cern

North Toronto Post - - News - By Sa­man­tha Peksa

Hun­dreds of age-old trees in Lawrence Park will be spared the axe when the City of Toronto be­gins its over­haul of the area’s sewer sys­tem in the next few years. While some res­i­dents have ex­pressed their re­lief, oth­ers ar­gue the plan pri­or­i­tizes the neigh­bour­hood’s tree canopy over pedes­trian safety.

On May 25, Toronto City Coun­cil ap­proved a plan to mit­i­gate storm water and base­ment flood­ing in the area and re­con­struct 26 local streets. The plan will im­pact ap­prox­i­mately 99 of 1,201 local trees, in­stead of the 350 orig­i­nally pro­posed in 2013. Side­walks will be in­stalled on five streets.

Brian McLean lives in Lawrence Park and knows first-hand how im­por­tant nav­i­ga­tional tools such as side­walks and curbs are for the visu­ally im­paired. McLean, a client of the CNIB who uses a white cane, said he reg­u­larly avoids streets in the area with­out side­walks.

“I do have some vi­sion, but even on the roads with­out a curb, I could wan­der too close into the mid­dle of the road and then that be­comes very dan­ger­ous for me,” he said.

A tree can be re­placed. The life of a per­son with sight loss can­not.”

To il­lus­trate McLean’s point, the cab he was trav­el­ling in to meet Post City on a rainy day in May, ac­tu­ally veered off the road into a ditch on Milden­hall Road.

An­gela Bon­fanti, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of CNIB, said staff didn’t get wind of the city’s plans un­til re­cently.

Bon­fanti said in­stalling side­walks on only five out of 26 local streets is un­ac­cept­able in any neigh­bour­hood, but is par­tic­u­larly prob­lem­atic in Lawrence Park, which bor­ders CNIB’s head of­fice at 1929 Bayview Ave. and is fre­quented by peo­ple with sight loss.

The Lawrence Park Ratepayers’ Association (LPRA) was the driv­ing force behind an ap­peal urg­ing the city to scale back on the loss of trees.

Phillip Craw­ley, a mem­ber of the LPRA and pub­lisher and CEO of the Globe and Mail, said the LPRA is pleased with the over­all out­come.

“The over­whelm­ing view was the de­struc­tion of trees was not some­thing the res­i­dents wanted to see,” he said. “They’ve got­ten used to not hav­ing side­walks.”

McLean said he hopes the city will in­stall more than five side­walks over the next few years to en­hance the life­style of lo­cals liv­ing with a dis­abil­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to Bon­fanti, CNIB will con­tinue to ad­vo­cate for more side­walks in the fu­ture. “A tree can be re­placed. The life of a per­son with sight loss can­not,” she said.

Con­struc­tion in the area is not ex­pected to be­gin un­til 2021.

McLean on Milden­hall Road where the cab he was in veered into a ditch

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