Rocky Mountaineer sorry for illegally cut trees in Vancouver

Company says chopped limbs unrelated to labour dispute

The upscale tourist railway that sells rides through what it calls unspoiled scenery is pledging to compensate the City of Vancouver after trees outside its False Creek Flats station were illegally cut.

Rocky Mountaineer spokesman Ian Robertson denied the chopped limbs had any connection with the ongoing lockout of the companys on-board attendants, who are part of the Teamsters union. The seven trees on Cottrell Street outside the Rocky Mountaineer Station were frequently used by the Local 31 members to hang their picket signs. One partially cut tree that still has most of its branches is labelled with a yellow City of Vancouver tag that says Liquidamber Worplesdon, another name for sweet gum tree.

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We hired a contractor to do cleanup of the station and area, we do this every year before the start of our season and obviously what we have heard from the city is the contractor extended that cleanup, unfortunately, out to and including the trees, Robertson told the Courier. We accept full responsibility, we're very sorry for it. We're cooperating with the city to replace the trees.

Robertson said he did not know the name of the contractor. Asked whether the contractor was fired or refused payment after the illegal cut, he said, I'm not going to get into specific details as to how we are following up with the contractor. At this point, that is water under the bridge.

Only trees along the Stations parking lot fence line were cut. Trees alongside a warehouse were left unscathed. The citys Protection of Trees Bylaw carries fines of $500 to $10,000 per offence for unlawful damage or removal of a tree. Locked out workers noticed the trees had been denuded when they arrived at the Station for their March 5 protest rally.

A B.C. Supreme Court order from August 2011 are posted on the fences, banning workers from blocking people or vehicles from entering or exiting Rocky Mountaineers property.

Rocky Mountaineer runs deluxe sightseeing trips to Banff, Jasper and Whistler. The company hired replacement workers last June and is preparing to do the same before the 2012 season begins in late April.

They have every right to peacefully and legally picket whatever that might be, we respect that, Robertson said. That has nothing to do with the strike, this was about a general cleanup of the station and area.

Vision Vancouver and COPE city councillors sent an open letter to Rocky Mountaineer last summer urging the company to negotiate with the union and stop using replacements.

In December 2008, Concord Pacific chopped down more than 15 cottonwood trees by the Northeast False Creek seawall. Permits worth $1,771 were bought after the cut, but the company eventually paid $25,000 to the city when the matter went to provincial court in July 2009.

Park board staff found holes drilled in five trees by Beach Avenue in 2004. Interior designer June Matheson paid $29,826 to replace trees she admitted to poisoning near her condominium and donated $20,000 to the park board. Matheson pleaded guilty in 2006, but received an absolute discharge.

Twitter: @bobmackin

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