Knotty behaviour: Residents report a rash of damaged trees

Broken trees like this trio seen at Berger and Modelands roads in June were a common sight around town this year. George Mathewson

George Mathewson

Sue-Elin Rawson first noticed it near St. Patrick’s High School – several newly-planted trees snapped in half.

She then encountered more young trees broken off beside the water treatment plant, then on Christina Street, and near the Salvation Army on Confederation Street.

“I started getting concerned when I saw how many had been snapped off,” said Rawson, a recreational cyclist and walker.

“We’ve already paid for those trees with our tax dollars and now we have to pay for them again. And it’s happening all over the city, north, south, east and west.”

And Rawson wasn’t the first reader to contact The Journal to report what appears to be a rash of tree vandalism.

So what’s up with that?

City arborist Patti Ross estimates vandals broke 40 to 50 trees that had to be replaced on municipal property this year.

“It is all vandalism. It’s a complete disrespect for trees,” she said.

“I’m assuming it’s kids but Lord only knows. It’s heartbreaking, really, to do a park plantings and go back to see them snapped off.”

Even the headquarters of Sarnia’s park maintenance wasn’t spared. In Germain Park, staff planted larger trees on both sides of the east-west pathway after smaller ones were snapped in half at night.

The larger, more mature trees are essentially vandal-proof but much more expensive to purchase.

“It’s not like we’re replacing an $80 tree every time, but still, it is outrageous,” said Ross, who noted the city often works with the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts on planting projects.

“We invest a lot in these trees so it does make my blood boil.”

Ross said without witnesses it’s tough to lay charges under city bylaws.

Recently, a mature locust tree worth thousands of dollars was cut for firewood in Coventry Park and the brush left behind, but no witnesses could be found, she said.

“Someone tried to tell us it blew over in a storm but you could see it was obviously cut with a chainsaw.”