WATCH: Demonstrators at a Duncan tree protest try to stop an ancient maple from being cut down as parking lot work begins. Tess van Straaten reports.
Work crews are cutting down trees at the Island Savings Centre in Duncan to make way for a new and improved parking lot.
But angry residents breached a barricade to try and stop them from cutting down one very special tree — an ancient maple with a lot of sentimental value.
“When you take away this tree, you’re taking a way a memory of a way of being of something the earth creates that people just cannot make this,” protester Seairra Courtemanche says.
Courtemanche chained herself to the tree, vowing to go on a hunger strike, as other protesters surrounded it.
They say it’s a local landmark and needs to be protected.
“We want answers,” Lindy Kennedy says. “We’re not going to just let them chop our tree down!”
“My parents met at this tree, my grandparents met at this tree,” Joseph Duffey told CHEK News. “I met the mother of my kids here. Every single man in his family has met his wife and the mother of his children at this tree.”
“It sums up Duncan and this area,” John Henry adds. “People came here for a new home and a new place and this tree was here to welcome them.”
Onlookers were also surprised, with one woman saying it was ridiculous the tree would be removed for parking.
Cowichan Valley Regional District officials say beloved maple is a serious hazard and must come down
But Cowichan Valley Regional District officials say the tree — which stands near Canada’s largest hockey stick — is being removed for safety reasons, not parking.
“The tree is near the end of its life and we’re concerned branches are going to come down,” says John Elzinga of the Cowichan Valley Regional District. “It’s really an eight to 10-foot stump with a bunch of suckers.”
“There’s rot, the trunk is hollowed out,” adds North Cowichan mayor and CVRD chair Jon Lefebure. “There’s a danger element to that tree and once you recognize a danger element to a tree, you have to act or there is liablity.”
But protesters aren’t buying it.
They’re now hoping to get an injunction and are vowing to stay put for as long as it takes.
“If they do come with a chainsaw, I’ll go higher and they will have to take me out with a cherry picker,” John Henry vows.
Ironically, once all the trees are gone, officials plan to make the new parking lot a green parking lot.