City spares tree after girl’s plea

Shawna O'Neill, TC Media
City spares tree after girl’s plea
Aradia Paquette

CORNWALL, Ontario – A 70-year-old tree on Charles St. will spared from destruction following the plight of nine-year-old Aradia Paquette. Paquette encouraged the City of Cornwall to preserve the tree in a Facebook video. On Wednesday, July 25, the video had been seen almost 20,000 times. 

“I went to my grandpa’s a few weeks ago and I saw there was a big ‘X’ on the tree,” said Paquette in the video. “My grandpa said you (the City) were going to cut it down to put in a sidewalk. Please don’t cut down that tree.”

 “I don’t understand why you need to cut down a tree for a sidewalk. Why can’t you go around the tree? There is lots of room for both,” said Paquette.

Councillor David Murphy, who saw the Facebook video, requested a transcript of Paquette’s speech and presented it to City administration, who agreed to work around the 70-year-old tree.

“Cornwall administration is at our best when we can work with residents,” said Murphy, who thought that Paquette’s speech was moving. “This is one of those cases where we can work with a resident and the project still proceeds.”

Bernie Driscoll, Paquette’s grandfather, claims that not all the community members were informed about the sidewalk project, and several trees have been marked with an ‘X’.

Driscoll started a petition in the spring to protest the sidewalk on Charles St., but the petition was never presented to City Council. According to Driscoll, Councillor André Rivette issued him an apology. Councillor David Murphy confirmed this information.

Driscoll claims that within the past five years a sidewalk project on a nearby street was petitioned against, and consequently, discontinued.

Cornwall Seaway News first reached out to the City of Cornwall on the afternoon of Monday, July 23 for comment, but have not received information regarding certain logistics of the project.

Trees with an ‘X’ appear along Charles St. on the North side of the road. The street lights are located on the South side of the street.

Murphy understands that the sidewalk will lead to St. Anne Catholic School to better ensure the safety of students.

“On any given school day you will have dozens of students walking to school,” said Murphy. “Now they will have a sidewalk to walk on, and in the winter it will be a plowed sidewalk to walk on.”

In her video, Paquette explained that her mother grew up with the tree and climbed in it on her wedding day because it meant so much to her. She also detailed the importance of preserving old trees as they provide oxygen and clean air, having recently read this information in a book.

“Just like a dog or a cat, a tree is a member of the family, and so is our tree,” said Paquette.

Councillor André Rivette commented on the video: “The City of Cornwall should be passing a tree bylaw that no trees be cut down unless they are diseased or causing a healthy and safety issue. I will propose such a bylaw at our next meeting in August.” 

The video can be viewed here:

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