Protesters trying to save an ancient maple tree in Duncan are furious after they say officials tricked them while they slept.
The massive tree was cut down early this morning after months of fighting and protests trying to stop the cut.
Before Emmy Bayes was even awake she was running as fast as she could Monday morning to the maple tree she and protesters vowed to protect.
“My neighbour across the street says I think they’re taking your tree down and I dropped my coffee and there was no one here except 5 security guards and they had it doubled fenced and they already had all their gear here and equipment,” says Emmy Mayes.
“And I tell you I’m just devastated I sat under this tree when I was a kid,” says Duncan Resident Jennifer Verbeem.
“I tried running around the fence,” says Emmy Bayes. “I had security guards chasing me. I kept running around trying to get in, trying to get in and they wouldn’t let me in then they called the police. ”
“I’m very upset, I’m very angry. I’m very disgusted and I’m ashamed to be a local politician today,” says District of North Cowichan Councillor Joyce Behnson.
After months of fighting to save the ancient tree in front of the Island Savings Centre in Duncan, protesters even climbing into its branches to stop its cut on August 5th, residents were caught off guard by a stealth move by officials just after 6 in the morning, when no one was occupying the tree as it had been for weeks. Cutting it down without crowds there to stop them.
“Took them less than an hour cause they moved so freaking fast,” says Bayes, who was the only protester to watch it being cutdown.
“It was an operational decision by staff to remove the tree today,” says John Elzinga of the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
Clearing the construction zone for an expanded parking lot at the Island Savings Centre, and officials say at the same time removing a tree that was deemed dangerous and dying by an arborist.
“Our direction was to remove the maple tree and we wanted to do that in as safe a way as possible,” says Elzinga.
But protesters say this surprise cut, as they slept has ignited a new fight between them and officials now.
“This is an unsafe situation. The community did not want this,” say protesters to police. That Bayes says the CVRD will face head on, when they try to take down other trees this community wants saved.
“They’re not taking down the next tree down the block. Not on my watch,” says Bayes.