Saying goodbye to a leaning legend: Oak Bay set to remove 200 year-old Garry oak

CHEK

If you’ve got deep roots in Oak Bay, you’ve no doubt taken a stroll under a leaning legend.

“Ever since I was a kid,” says Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch.

On Wednesday, Oak Bay crews will remove a 200-year-old Garry oak whose precarious lean has made it an attractive backdrop for pictures, a home for Herons, but a potential hazard for humans.

“The fear is it’s going to fall onto the sidewalk and hurt someone so obviously we can’t have that,” says Oak Bay councillor Hazel Braithwaite.

Rick Pettinger walks past the tree daily but always quickens his pace under its canopy. “You don’t want to just hang out under this tree,” he says.

Parks manager Chris Hyde-Lay says every measure was taken to preserve the ancient oak, but it was past the point of saving.

“We even explored the option of moving the sidewalk behind the tree.”

Hyde-Lay adds that despite the fact the tree is budding, it’s in the process of actively failing.

The district posted a notice on the tree, alerting the public of its removal, so Monday evening people gathered to pay their respects, leaving letters, poems and books in the tree’s ancient trunk, and sharing stories.

“I heard a woman say yesterday this tree holds all her secrets,” says Braithwaite.

It’s no surprise the attention the tree has gotten, given its prominent perch on Beach Drive. “It’s probably the landmark tree in the district,” adds Hyde-Lay.

As for the wood, plans include donating the lumber to a program at nearby Glenlyon-Norfolk School, and offering it to local First Nations.

As for the public, Oak Bay residents weighed in.

“We have received some letters about the removal of the tree,” quips Murdoch, who added that a second company was hired to evaluate whether the tree had to be removed.

Oak Bay has the largest number of urban Garry oaks in Canada, so it’s little surprise what will be planted in its place. “It’ll be a Garry oak,” says Braithwaite.

Hopefully, this one enjoys the view as much as the last.

Jordan CunninghamJordan Cunningham

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