Should a cluster of trees be removed from a private property near the site of the Humboldt Broncos crash? Despite professional analysis that determined removing the trees would improve road safety, hundreds of people are calling on the province to back down out of respect for the homeowner.

Humboldt resident Beth Bautz started a Facebook group last month to gather support against the move. Since then, she says she’s received approximately 600 signatures.

Bautz said her friend, who owns the home with the trees, rushed to the site of the crash moments after the April 6 collision that killed 16 people, most of them teenage hockey players. Removing the trees would mean that the homeowner would see the crash site “from every window of their house,” Bautz said.

“He was one of the very first people on the scene and he helped until late, late at night with everything, and he’s suffered from PTSD because of it,” she told CTV Saskatoon.

“For somebody who’s dealing with mental health issues from this accident, why can’t we step up and help them?”

But it may already be too late. Last December, an engineering firm hired by Saskatchewan’s Minister of Highways studied the collision and made 13 recommendations. Among those recommendations were improving signage in the area and removing the trees to increase sightlines along the road.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Highways confirmed in December that it would work with the family to eliminate the trees.

Bautz fears that removing the trees would set a precedent in Saskatchewan.

“This is about also all of Saskatchewan — all major intersections at highways,” she said.

“This is just the beginning of a lot of trees and homes being affected by this. I think about all the homesteads and business that are surrounded by trees or have a tree-lined property.”

A local politician agrees. Ian Boxall, the reeve for the Regional Municipality of Connaught, said he supported all the recommendations except removing the trees.

“A shelter belt in rural Saskatchewan for acreage owners and farmyards is an important part to protect the yard from the elements – wind and blowing snow,” Boxall told CTV Saskatoon last month.

“I think as long as they’re not infringing on the road allowance, I think that’s a big ask.”

On a Facebook page promoting the petition, Bautz wrote that she knew that starting the petition would be “extremely difficult for everyone,” but felt compelled to help her friend.

“My intentions are to help this young family and to spread awareness that it's happening EVERYWHERE in Saskatchewan,” she wrote. “With that being said, I stand with my community, and pray every day for all who has been affected by this tragedy.”

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 30, has pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving for causing the crash near Tisdale, Sask. Sidhu was behind the wheel of a tractor trailer when he drove through a stop sign and collided with the Humboldt Broncos bus.

The Crown has asked for a 10-year sentence for Sidhu. Judge Inez Cardinal is expected to release her decision this month.