City responds to Nelson residents’ anger over alley trimming

The alley behind the residence of Judy O’Leary, before and after the city trimmed it. Photo: Judy O’Leary
The alley behind the residence of Judy O’Leary, before and after the city trimmed it. Photo: Judy O’Leary

Many Nelson residents are unhappy with the pruning and trimming the City of Nelson has done recently in the city’s alleys.

On the Star’s website and Facebook page, they responded to a letter from Nelson resident Tobias Jenny published last week.

“Blackberries ready to be harvested were razed down,” Jenny wrote, “hedges brutally chopped right to the fence line, trees trimmed without any apparent thought given to their health or survival, vegetable beds razed down with a weed whacker. All this happened without any warning that we were aware of.”

Many residents agreed and criticized the city for indiscriminate pruning of flowers, shrubs, vegetables and trees.

City manager Kevin Cormack told the Star the reason for the trimming is so that garbage and hydro trucks can pass through the alleys.

“We certainly appreciate folks beautifying their properties,” he said in an email, “but it is very important that these are done on their own property as our lanes are in many cases narrow and the new vehicles are larger than they used to be and the lanes can be dangerous and put both our employees and the public at risk when they get encroached upon.”

Some commenters on the Star’s Facebook page, however, think the city is overdoing it.

• They took out a good part of my plum tree that was not in the way. – Janet Williamson

• They are just guessing where the property line is and laying waste. We had half our vegetable garden/ raspberry/strawberry patch destroyed, when only a portion of it was actually over the property line. – Kevin McClelland

• I hope there was a really, really good reason for it, and not just some tidying urge, or occasional issue with the odd property (in which case individual property owners could be notified with a sticker on their bin or uncollected trash). I think our rambling ramshackle alleys are one of Nelson’s delights. – Anna Purcell

The city’s director of public works, Colin Innes, told the Star he understands the response.

“With people being concerned about pollinators and wanting to ensure there are flowers feeding pollinators and just having more people growing gardens to improve access to food and beautify the community, I really do support all of those kinds of things. But doing them in a laneway that’s not on your property? I have a little bit more difficulty with that.”

Asked to identify the safety issues, Innes said, “A garbage truck swamper (staff) being hit with branches as they ride on the back of the truck and our equipment (including the garbage truck) striking branches as they travel down the lane. The general reduced visibility is also a concern as there can be other objects stored in the lane and we want to avoid striking any objects.”

Innes said if encroachment is allowed it will incrementally increase. He thinks the city did not communicate its plans well enough.

Notice of the trimming was on the city’s website and Facebook page, he said, but he said perhaps they should have used more old-fashioned methods such as sandwich boards.

“This would be at least another means of residents being alerted to it in advance, as opposed to finding out about it after it’s happened,” he said.

This story was altered on Aug. 18 by adding the fourth-last paragraph about safety.

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