christmas lights toronto

Toronto might pull the plug on famous holiday light display

Around Halloween and Christmas, Karin Martin and her family decorate their house on Glen Lake Avenue to the nines - it's one of the most well-known holiday houses in the city.

Last week, Martin called the 3-1-1 help line because some city-owned trees by her property were damaged after last week's mini ice storm.

However, she says when a member of city's urban forestry staff arrived the next day, he told her to remove a swing from one the trees, a swing Martin says had been there for 20 years.

The following morning, as Martin recalls, the city staff came back and cut out the tree swing and also removed three Christmas lights from a different tree.

She tells us they didn't deal with the ice-related damage and claims the staff member who had been by the previous day threatened her with a fine if she ever put up Christmas lights in the tree again. 

“We have people that come here and they even offer us money, which we don’t take, towards hydro bills and all kinds of stuff, and I got this one guy who’s probably going to kibosh the entire thing because he has told us he will fine us if we put lights up,” she says.

Matthew Cutler, a spokesperson from the city's Parks, Forestry and Recreation department, confirms that city staff made two visits to the property on Glen Lake Avenue and removed the swing. 

He says in order to prevent damage, in general the city doesn't permit items such as swings and Christmas lights in city-owned trees. There are some special exception for Christmas, for instance if a BIA wants to put lights of street-side trees and assumes responsibility for any potential damage.

Further, he explains, "We can’t do repairs, or we can’t do pruning or maintenance on a tree with Christmas lights in it because it’s obviously a hazard to us having electrified Christmas lights in the tree and doing the work."

The city doesn't have the resources to regularly check up on each on every one of its trees - it only sees them on a rotation once every few years. 

When asked whether the city would check back on the Christmas light-filled tree on Glen Lake, Cutler says this would likely happen only if they received a complaint.

“We don’t keep a list of places to check back up on in that way, so this goes back into our regular rotation," he says.

"But if we had to go out to do maintenance again or we had a complaint, perhaps from a neighbour, or someone, that they felt the tree was potentially being injured, then we would inspect from there."

Lead photo by

Aaron Navarro


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