‘Shoe tree’ deemed to be a hazard
Alain Lauzon is “disappointed” North Glengarry removed footware from a popular shoe tree near his business in Alexandria, saying he never got a chance to save the attraction.
While the tree had “put Alexandria on the map,” the municipality deemed it to be a safety hazard. Fearing that falling shoes and boots would hurt pedestrians or damage snow removal equipment, the municipality lifted the decorations from the tree shortly before Christmas.
Mr. Lauzon said he would have liked to discuss safety concerns before the township acted.
When he returned from a trip in December he received a letter from the township saying the shoes had to be removed. He had received the same notice about a year ago when the municipality had received complaints.
Mr. Lauzon wanted to work with the township and clean up any shoes or boots that had fallen.
The township has eliminated an asset, he observed.
By drawing visitors, the shoe tree contributed to the economy, he noted, citing reports that every $1 invested in the arts results in a $3 return to the community.
Shoe trees, which can be found everywhere across North America, cost nothing to create, he added.
He remarked the dangling footwear tree “brought a smile” to the faces of visitors, who often took pictures with what some regarded as an artistic creation. The collection began years ago when young people took to tossing old footware onto branches of the tree, as a way of saying, “I was here.” The display also served as a reminder that the second phase of the skateboard park has not been completed, said Mr. Lauzon.
Public works director Ryan Morton said while he understands Mr. Lauzon’s sentiments, the township had to act in a timely manner. Municipal officials had tried to speak to Mr. Lauzon in person December 18 before removing the shoes December 21. Mr. Lauzon was present when the township took off the shoes, filling two half-tonne trucks with foot coverings.
“We had every intention of communicating with the individual but we were up against a tight timeframe because shoes and boots were falling off the tree, and it’s Winter,” said Mr. Morton. “We have a $170,000 snowblower. The last thing I needed was a steel-toe boot to go through it and mess it up.”
Mr. Morton said if a boot got caught in the township equipment and workers couldn’t clean snow from the sidewalks the township would have a problem.
He said the township received complaints about falling shoes. “We have elderly individuals walking up and down and we have multiple photos of shoes on the ground,” added Mr. Morton.
Mr. Morton added it wasn’t clear whether the tree was on public or private property, but since it hung over the sidewalk it was a safety issue.
“We do fully respect artistic views and opinions from people in town,” added Mr. Morton. But the public works department met and decided “something had to be done.”
“I would hate to have something happen -- an individual get hurt -- as a result of the
municipality being unable to clear snow,” he added.
Couldn’t chance it
“There was a lady one day, I saw her pushing her baby in a stroller and it so happened the boots and shoes were all laying on the ground, but she walked between them. I thought what are the chances a boot or shoe will fall directly on the stroller? Slim, but I couldn’t live with myself if something like that happened.”
SHOE TREE GONE: The township removed shoes from a tree dubbed the shoe tree in Alexandria before Christmas.