The People of Eric Bunnell: Tree Branches and Power Lines


Although summer is still a few days away — the season doesn’t officially start until 5:13 a.m. Tuesday, don’t you know that — we certainly got a taste of summer weather this week in St. Thomas and its surroundings.

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Although summer is still a few days away — the season doesn’t officially start until 5:13 a.m. Tuesday, don’t you know that — we certainly got a taste of summer weather this week in St. Thomas and its surroundings.

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The official mercury hit 32C on Wednesday at London International Airport, where Environment Canada releases its forecast for St. Thomas.

And don’t get me started on the Humidex! It reached a withering of 44 C.

From everything I’ve read, it can only get worse as our poor old planet heats up and we experience more severe weather.

In truth, however, St. Thomas tends to be cooler than London. We are closer to the moderating influence of Lake Erie and away from the big city’s urban heat island.

And in my neighborhood, in the older part of St. Thomas, we have trees – big, towering street trees – that shade and cool.

But unlike newer residential areas where utilities are buried underground, older neighborhoods also have overhead power lines.

And this year, at least, trees and hydropower have come into real conflict.

So much so that the town has received “lots of complaints” from residents about aggressive tree pruning – officially, vegetation management – by Entegrus, the Chatham-based utility.

And to the point where city arborists met with Entegrus and toured to examine what city parks director Jeff Bray called “endless” examples of the contractor’s “poor arboreal practices.” from the electricity company.

In fairness, Jeff notes, the city and Entegrus approach tree trimming differently.

For Entegrus, the utility is required by law to maintain a three-meter clearance from trees around primary high-tension power lines — those at the top of a pole.

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And while Jeff calls the result “clearance before appearance, as they say in the business,” Entegrus says it’s for good reason.

“Trees are the number one reason for failures,” says Colin Hicks, Entegrus director of engineering and operations.

“Having a good tree pruning program is very important.

Indeed, of all the reasons electricity goes out, trees are “one of the few things we have control over”.

Colin is not the utility’s contact person for tree complaints – he was the spokesperson for a staff member on vacation.

“It is possible that we have received complaints (but) I am not aware.”

But he said he spoke to the contractor, who replied that he was aware of only one complaint, and that a team returned to the owner’s property to fix things.

Although this is only the second season that Entegrus has employed this particular contractor, Colin claims he is fully qualified.

Full disclosure.

Over the years we have planted three street trees with the city at home, replacing the old trees that had survived their time. (You know a tree is overdue when it snaps during a storm, flattens part of your roof, knocks down your chimney, and causes $10,000 in heartache! Trees aren’t the light, airy things you they seem to be.)

Earlier this spring, after the contractor was done with them, I just felt like taking them apart. (And I was especially annoyed because the trees had been planted before the power line in front of my house was rebuilt and moved six feet.)

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But now that they’re in sheets and still shade my house most of the time, I just try not to look at them too closely.

A necessary count

A side note.

Although St. Thomas plants about 200 new trees each year along streets, in parks and open spaces, there has not been, until now, a proper inventory of the city’s trees.

A consultant started working on the record this week, says Jeff.

“This project will provide information such as tree health, species, size and location and will be used to generate reports to assist urban foresters and the parks and forestry division in strategic planning, such as the managing the urban forest, developing maintenance plans and preparing for the onset of diseases such as oak wilt (which is on the way).

“It will also provide information that can be used to help educate residents about the importance of their urban forest, including the impacts of climate change.”

A bakers tabernacle

Members of the distant Baker clan are on their way. And on the way. And on the way.

Descendants of northern Yarmouth pioneers William and Margaret Baker hail from as far away as Florida and California and are expected to gather in St. Thomas at Pinafore Park on Saturday for the 125th annual Baker Picnic.

Billed as the oldest family reunion in Canada (and currently the subject of an exhibit at the Elgin County Heritage Centre), this year’s picnic is led by brothers Jay, Lee, Todd and Chad Baker, great-great-great-great-grandson of William and Margaret, and whose ancestors are to be represented at the picnic by costumed re-enactors greeting their descendants.

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(Next year’s picnic will be led by Diane Baker, a sixth-generation baker.)

Even something like a pandemic hasn’t stood in the way of meeting — for the past two years they’ve met virtually through Zoom.

But with their return to an in-person picnic this year, the family is not exempt from the new norms of our time – a traditional potluck has succumbed to public health measures, and it’s a take-out affair.

All the same, it is expected that there will be more than a dozen bakers at the park.

“For the 100th, we had over 400 people in attendance,” says Janice Fisher, former picnic chair, fifth-generation Baker (and third cousin of the Baker brothers).

“And although age has taken a lot of our seniors, we hope at least 125 for the 125th.”


home run celebration

Plans are coming to fruition for the July 27 Home Run celebration in St. Thomas for the long-awaited arrival of Jack “Glad” Graney in Cooperstown.

Everyone is invited, and so says St. Thomas Economic Development Corp. is currently in progress.

“Jack’s celebration of the award and career achievements in his hometown on July 27 will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Emslie Field in Pinafore Park with an alumni-themed baseball event featuring the St. Thomas Cardinals. , 14, facing the Sarnia Brigade from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“The evening will include outdoor games, pomp and circumstance with the St. Thomas Police Pipe and Drum Band, a ceremonial first pitch featuring local Paralympian James Dunn, national anthems, commentary from the cab broadcast by St. Thomas native and CTV broadcaster Brent Lale, live music before and throughout the match with The Heavyweights Brass Band and, following in Jack’s footsteps, the first-ever drone show in the field .

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Best of all, free!

The party is hosted by the Economic Development Corporation in partnership with Messenger Freight Systems and with support from St. Thomas Minor Baseball and the City of St. Thomas. It takes place days after the Baseball Hall of Fame is set to recognize Glad’s career as a pioneering baseball broadcaster at the hall’s annual induction weekend. Among his many firsts, the St. Thomas native, a longtime Cleveland teammate, was the first player to go from the field to the broadcast booth.

The venue for the evening is historic Emslie Field, named for Major League umpire Bob Emslie and which the company says is “a fitting venue for a tribute, as it was Bob Emslie who first recommended St. Thomas-born Graney to the Chicago Cubs.”

Stay well.

And stay cool!

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