Those living in Winnipeg’s St. Norbert neighbourhood may be one step closer to finding out what the future holds for Lemay Forest.
On Saturday, dozens of community members attended an open house organized by property owner Tochal Developments to decide between three possible options for the land.
“Option A is, of course, what the residents would like to see happen, which is government purchasing the lands and keeping it as is as a public park,” said professional planner John Wintrup, who represents the company. “Option B is a variety of residential development potential for the land. And option C is none of the above.”
The roughly nine-hectare (22-acre) property has been contested for years. Lemay Forest lies between Lemay Avenue and the Red River south of the Perimeter Highway.
“It’s therapeutic. It’s good for physical health, mental health,” said Cat Mcaulay Gauthier with the Coalition to Save Lemay Forest. “And we’re just losing so many trees every year in this city. It’s time to step up.”
Wintrup said the company isn’t trying to impede or stop the residents in their push for preservation.
“We encourage them to participate in these types of events and to engage with their elected officials on this,” Wintrup said.
But not all community members are on board with the proposed options.
“It’s a bit much for me when they say they want to preserve the forest when really they want to build 136 units to 3,051 units,” said Jaxon Kowaluk, a team lead with the coalition.
While there has not been an official development plan put forward yet, Wintrup said after years of community consultations and pushback from the public, a decision needs to be made soon.
“My client will no longer be owning a woodlot that’s publicly accessible by the end of 2024,” he said.
The fate of the forest is expected to go before the standing policy committee on property and development on Jan. 11. In the meantime, the coalition is raising funds to help the city purchase the property.
“We’re hoping that the city will buy the land, “ said Stacy Gosman, a member of the coalition. According to Gosman, the group has already raised $5,000.
The community has also garnered support from several city councillors.
“I’m reasonably optimistic that a deal can be done,” said St. Norbert—Seine River councillor Markus Chambers.
“Hopefully we can find the funding through the city, the province, the feds, private donors to save this incredible piece of forest and then everyone’s happy,” said Waverley West Ward councillor Janice Lukes.
The land last sold for about $1.5 million, but a new price has yet to be set.
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