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Workers begin cutting down trees in Hunt Club Road forest

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The Ottawa Airport Authority has started removing trees in a section of forest along Hunt Club Road.

CTV News Ottawa was at the site of the forest, where workers were seen cutting down large trees in the area on Monday morning. A small number of demonstrators opposed to the removal had gathered.

The Ottawa Police Service confirmed they were on-scene near Billy Bishop Private and Hunt Club Road regarding a 'small demonstration.' They did not provide more details.

The airport authority, who owns the forest, said last week that it is moving ahead with the plan, citing the poor health of the trees.

"The land is zoned for development for our mandate. We are going to market it for development. Do I know what that looks like? I don't," said airport spokesperson Krista Kealey.

Any commercial agreement reached about the land would be a lease, as the airport authority does not sell airport land, the authority says.

The clearcutting of the forest has received opposition from local residents and advocates who say do not believe the airport authority's claim that the forest is dangerous.

A group called Save Hunt Club Forest launched a digital petition in 2021 to save the forest from development, which garnered more than 21,000 signatures.

The airport authority said in a news release last week that the decision was "difficult."

"Our decision to remove the trees is motivated by our commitment to safeguarding the well-being of Ottawa residents and the Hunt Club community by mitigating the risks associated with this neglected plantation's dangerous state," the airport authority said on Nov. 20.

 "While we understand that there will be members of the community upset by this news, safety is of paramount importance to the Ottawa Airport Authority."

The land is home to a plantation of red pine trees, which are grown to be harvested for use as telephone poles and lumber.

The plantation was initially established in the 1950s and the area has since become a popular green space for residents, despite being classified as a commercial lot under the approved Airport Land Use Plan.

"The plantation has been wrongly characterized as public land. This area was never intended for recreational purposes by the community, and the Authority has consistently made efforts over the years to remind the public that any use of the land is considered trespassing and poses a potential danger due to its current state," the airport authority said in a statement Monday. "Unfortunately, these cautions are ignored by some, and the warning signs are frequently vandalized or stolen."

The airport authority says it plans to clearcut about 10 acres of land along Hunt Club Road, but says the trees to the south, which are on Department of National Defence land, will remain in place.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Ted Raymond and Jackie Perez.

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