Heavy machinery has begun shredding trees on a patch of land near Halifax’s Bayers Lake Business Park, deforesting a popular trail and catching some residents by surprise.

But the city says it should be no surprise: the land was slated for industrial use and the municipality sold the land to a developer in 2013, as part of its plans to develop the area.

“The public would have been involved in that process when we developed both the regional plan and the business parks plan, that identified these parcels for sale and development,” said municipal spokesperson Jennifer Stairs.

Kim Dorsey says she was caught off-guard while hiking the trail this weekend with her family, as they often do.

“Our jaws dropped, when we first saw what had happened,” Dorsey said.

“I didn't know that they were going to tear this wilderness area apart,” she said.

With the land-clearing operation well underway by Tuesday, a ridge that was once wooded now offers an unobstructed view of the Bayers Lake Business Park.

The land was purchased two years ago by the BANC Group.

The company’s president told CTV News the property is being developed for retail use, an extension of the business park.

Shops are expected to be open for business on the site in less than three years.

Until now, the land has been home to a popular mountain biking trail, widely known as the Whopper Dropper Trail.

Greg Taylor, who runs a website with information on area trails, says the deforestation taking place amounts to “missed opportunities.”

He says he’d like to see the municipality and the developer team up to put the land to a better use.

“It wouldn't take a whole lot of infrastructure to develop a trail like that, and then you've got the developer and the city looking good for doing something for the people of Halifax,” Taylor said.

The municipality and the province are currently working to develop a regional park nearby.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell