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Residents along tree-lined Victoria Ave in Chatham, Ont. celebrate win

Proposed changes to Victoria Avenue in Chatham have been paused for the foreseeable future after a multi-year fight to save the trees along the historic street grew across the community.

Chatham-Kent councillor and Victoria Avenue resident Michael Bondy said municipal staff informed him last week that sewer replacement and road reconstruction work was removed from the five year municipal priority list, after work was initially scheduled to begin in 2022.

“If there are other priorities in the municipality, then I'm happy to see that they're taken care of first,” Bondy said.

“I asked about the schedule for this and I received a letter saying that the sewers have been cleaned, inspected and they're okay and this project is no longer on the five year priority plan. So it's, I'd say, like indefinitely kind of on hold.”

Bondy explained, “It'll have to happen eventually because all sewers have to be replaced eventually. But the big concern about the trees and effectively the reconstruction of Victoria Ave. seems to be on hold which makes a lot of people very happy.”

Municipal staff said the sewer under the street from McNaughton Avenue to Thames Street will be monitored in the coming years, but that recent flow investigations determined reconstruction was not required at this time.

Victoria Avenue at McNaughton in Chatham, Ont. on Monday, May 29, 2023. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)

“I don't hear about any sewage problems on the street on Victoria Avenue, and I'm sure I'd probably be the first guy to hear about it,” Bondy said. “Being a long-time councillor on Victoria, I'm sure they would come to me with that and I've never received any complaints about sewage problems.”

In 2020, residents along the historic street, and across Chatham-Kent, tied orange ribbons on their trees to express their displeasure with the proposed reconstruction plan, which at one time included a roundabout and multi-purpose trails.

Bondy told CTV News people come from out of town to take walks along Victoria Avenue.

“A lot of the community was involved in this like I saw signs in Erieau, in Dresden, so it was more of a community concern that it was simply just Victoria Avenue residents,” he said.

“I'd say that we're all pretty happy about it and it gives us some breathing time.”

Bondy said mature trees that pose significant safety concerns still need to be dealt with properly, but that this decision should be viewed as a win for all those concerned.

“Nine mature trees have been removed in the last three years,” Bondy said. “And it's been promised that they will be replaced by “not saplings” but Carolinian larger trees. That hasn't happened yet. But I have faith.”

There were initial concerns that more than two dozen would be removed. 

“Because of what's happened, a lot of people have started to plant new trees, fearing that we would lose all of these trees so it's kind of worked in our favour. It's probably going to be a more treed street in the end.

“People really stepped up to say, we don't agree with this. We don't necessarily want to see a modernization of Victoria Avenue. And you know, it took a number of years and some change in management, but I think people were listened to because the sewers aren't any different than they were. They've just been cleaned and given a clean bill of health for the next five years.” Top Stories

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