Residents worry that roadside maintenance harms environment
BY SARAH WHITAKER
Special to the VOICE
Residents of the Sulphur Spring Drive area continue to be concerned about the narrow roadway.
“I’m really disappointed the Town earmarked money, then withdrew it,” says Cheryl Skobal regarding the ongoing closure of Sulphur Springs Drive.
“It really needs to be fixed,” said the resident of Orchard Hill, which is also currently closed due to road damage, pointing out there is no other access for many residents of the area and a medical emergency could be devastating.
Sulphur Springs has been closed since March 2016 due to a section of the road being washed out. Council did earmark $35,000 last year for an engineer’s report to discover the best course of action for fixing the road, a narrow, winding country lane that crosses the sensitive Twelve Mile Creek.
Council took that money back out of the budget last year, but have recently agreed that something needs to be done. Some councillors feel a full engineer’s report isn’t necessary and the money should go directly to road repairs.
A garbage truck driver, stopped to collect waste on Luffman Drive, which runs between Sulphur Springs and Orchard Hill, told the Voice that collecting trash in the neighbourhood is significantly more difficult since the road was closed, noting he is forced to back down one portion of Sulphur Springs and try to turn the truck around where another small portion of the road widens out.
While the road closure continues to be inconvenient and a concern for people who live in the area, a new concern has come to light following some road maintenance late this summer.
Lynncy Powell, whose family has owned a home in the area for 150 years, explains she heard a loud noise on Luffman recently and walked down the road to see what was happening. She spoke with a worker, she believes a Town contractor, on a tractor cutting vegetation along the side of the road.
“He had a side arm cutter that was taking out three-inch saplings,” says Powell, noting she asked him to stop and assured him she would trim the vegetation by hand.
When she later walked around to Sulphur Springs she saw vegetation had been cleared “indiscriminately” along the banks of Twelve Mile Creek.
Pointing out large saplings with jagged, torn cuts in the trunks — some still attached to the now-dead limbs and leaves, Powell said they were “hacked off” and not cut with any care.
“Oh my god,” says Powell of her reaction to seeing the damage.
Marc MacDonald, Public Relations and Marketing Specialist for the Town of Pelham, said the work was “very minor” roadside sightline maintenance, and the tree cuttings were part of a five-year plan to remove diseased ash from the area.
An arborist who has seen the saplings that were cut, said the work is not proper tree removal but rather a cutting-back of any tree encroaching on the roadside.
Walking along Sulphur Springs and pointing out where vegetation has been cut from the bank of the creek and how the saplings would have shaded the water, Powell says her biggest concern is for the environment.
The creek, the only cold-water fish habitat in Niagara, relies on the shade of trees along its bank to keep the water cool, explains Powell, adding that the vegetation also helps keep the bank from eroding.
“It needs to be narrow and deep” for the water to stay cool, she says, noting as the creek bed widens it becomes shallow and is more easily warmed by the sun.
Along with her concern for the health of the creek and the wildlife that rely on it, Powell points out the vegetation would also help prevent erosion along the side of the road— the cause of the current road closure.
“We need a roads manager that thinks ahead,” says Powell.
Quick to point out the area is well-serviced by Pelham’s public works department with excellent snow clearing, Powell says this particular work does more harm than good.
“There needs to be some education of Town staff about the importance of the creek banks and vegetation,” she said. “It needs to stay overgrown.”
MacDonald says the Town “has specific fleet and procedures, as well as contracted services, depending on the nature of the roadway” and that Town staff are “certainly cognizant of the environmental sensitivity of the area, especially with respect to the Twelve Mile Creek.”
“Every effort is made to minimize any damage during roadside maintenance,” adds MacDonald.