ARMLEY — A petition is calling on the provincial highways ministry to change course and not remove the trees at the site of the Humboldt Broncos crash.
The trees, located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Highways 35 and 335, separate the highways from a yard site. One of the recommendations of an independent engineer’s review of the intersection is to remove the trees to improve drivers’ sightlines.
Beth Bautz, a Humboldt resident, started the petition Feb. 24. She said she has the permission of the owners of the property, but at the current time they don’t want their names used. Bautz said there are a number of reasons the family doesn’t want the trees removed.
“That’s their shelter. That’s protection from the highway, the noise, the pollution, the beautiful Saskatchewan weather we get, and also protection for their son,” Bautz said. “He’s very young and he knows not to go past those trees. It keeps him confined, so to speak.”
The petition is being circulated for signatures throughout several communities and is also hosted online on a Facebook page called “Petition Against Ministry of Highways Tree Removal on Highway 35 & 335”. The online copy had about 600 supporters on March 6.
“I been friends with them for 20-plus years, probably more than that actually. Of course, being from Humboldt, it’s touched many people’s hearts when the accident occurred, but it touched mine because I’m really close friends with this family,” Bautz said. “The fact that he was able to help at the accident scene and did so without thinking twice about it – I just would like to try to help them out.”
Steve Shaheen, a spokesperson for the highways ministry, said it is in negotiations with the property owners to remove the trees.
“Their removal does require negotiations with that land owner,” he said. “In these circumstances, wherever we require land, we enter negotiations and try to meet with them and then come to some form of agreement.”
Shaheen said the ministry is working to enacting the other recommendations from the engineer’s review.
“While we remain hopeful that a mutually acceptable agreement may be reached, we’re installing some additional safety measures like Stop and Stop Ahead pavement signs painted on Highway 335, and will be repainted in the spring,” he said. “They will install rumble strips on Highway 335 on the upcoming construction season and the larger Stop and Stop Ahead signs in order as well.”
A forensic report presented during the sentencing of Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, the driver of the semi-truck who failed to stop at the intersection, found that the collision wouldn’t have been prevented if the trees weren’t there at the time.
Bautz said so far she has found mixed responses to the petition. While the communities closer to the intersection are supportive, in Humboldt she has had trouble getting signatures for the paper petition.
Bautz doesn’t have a specific time planned to approach the ministry with the petition, and instead plans on leaving it in the family’s hands if they wish to bring the signatures to the ministry.
“Now we feel like it’s the time to get some names out there and try to see if something can happen to make a difference.”