‘Shoe tree’ deemed to be a haz­ard

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - BY AN­GELA BROWN News Staff

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.”

Li­a­bil­ity con­cern

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.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

SHOE TREE GONE: The town­ship re­moved shoes from a tree dubbed the shoe tree in Alexan­dria be­fore Christ­mas.

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