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Photo : © Mario Francoeur

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After the Ice Storm: How to Help the Mountain Recover

The damaged and downed trunks and branches, as well as the many branches and limbs left hanging from treetops, not only endanger the safety of anyone venturing into the forest, but are also blocking many designated trails. Olmsted Path, the Peel St. entrance and the summit loop in Mount Royal Park have since reopened, and are heavily frequented. However, many people are clearly ignoring the City’s strong recommendation to avoid using the unsafe, secondary forest trails in both Mount Royal and Tiohtià:ke Otsira'kéhne parks. Seemingly impatient and unwilling to give nature a chance to recover and let the specialized teams do their jobs, these people are risking their own safety and harming the integrity of these precious, natural spaces by venturing off the trails to get around the branches piled up on the ground. This is why we implore you, for the love of Mount Royal, to make one, small sacrifice now, so that we can all enjoy the mountain later. Whether you’re behaving environmentally responsibly or not, we urge you to read the article to find out how you can make a difference.


Why be patient?

The ice storm broke branches and trunks and weakened the structure of the trees in both the forest and garden sections of Mount Royal. Due to the significant danger posed by falling trees and branches, specialists must first assess the damage and then, secure the site. The emergency work required to prune and/or remove damaged and hanging tree limbs will take weeks to complete. This work is also needed to keep the damaged trees from dying and reduce the risk of disease (from insects and fungi, for example). Even at a quick glance, it is clear that properties all over the mountain have suffered considerable damage.


How you can help

  1. Stay on the only trail that is officially open and usable at the moment: Olmsted Path. The ice storm happened at a very bad time of year: the spring thaw, when natural areas are always fragile. The secondary paths are full of downed branches, and the many people using them (though they shouldn’t be) are simply skirting around the piles and thus, trampling the undergrowth and widening the trails. This compacts the soil, contributes to forest fragmentation and increases the potential for erosion, which seriously damages vegetation. So please, stay on Olmsted Path. For the time being, all other paths, trails and natural areas on the mountain are off limits.

  2. Let the specialists do their jobs! The City of Montréal is working hard to remedy the damage in the park and is doing so by concentrating on priority areas. Cleaning up trails after an ice storm involves completing a number of steps before the area is ready for public use again. These steps include:

  • Inspection by a certified professional to assess risks on the trail and in the area surrounding it. 

  • Removal of branches on the ground and limbs that are broken and/or tangled in or hanging from the trees.

  • Assessment of the damage to each tree, followed by pruning or other required measures.


A silver lining

Of course, the results of the ice storm will have a major impact on the mountain’s landscape and damaged, mature trees, but the breaks in the forest cover will also give young trees the chance to take root and grow quickly. The large quantity of fallen or damaged wood will attract an abundance of insects over the next few years, which will benefit insectivorous birds such as woodpeckers. The debris left on the ground (branches, trunks, etc.) will put nutrients like carbon back into the soil on the forest floor. The City of Montréal will have felled trees transported to the Centre de valorisation du bois urbain [urban timber recovery centre] so that they can be transformed into boards or wood chips. The observations made in the aftermath of the 1998 ice storm showed that Mount Royal’s forest is surprisingly resilient. We’ll have to remain vigilant, however, since we may also see a marked increase in the presence of non-native invasive plant species like buckthorn, as was the case after 1998.


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