‘Trees of the Year’ celebrates unbe-leaf-able trees in the Comox Valley

‘Trees of the Year’ celebrates unbe-leaf-able trees in the Comox Valley
Photo courtesy of Comox Valley Nature
This Garry oak along Topland Road in Courtenay is a part of a larger population of Garry oaks in the neighbourhood. It still produces acorns despite losing a major part of its trunk, and was nominated for its strength and resilience.

Since 2018, Comox Valley Nature has celebrated unique and spectacular trees in the region through its Trees of the Year event.

It used to be called “Tree of the Year,” but with such natural abundance, how could you pick just one?

There’s magic that happens when people go out to find special trees, said Karen Cummins, a board member with Comox Valley Nature and the event’s coordinator. “It’s literally like a treasure hunt. And we just want to inspire a little bit of that with the community, to just get out and take a walk and focus on a tree and its benefits, its attributes.”

When Karen Cummins first got involved, the event was much smaller.

In the first years, Cathy Storey and Fred Newhouse ran the Tree of the Year event. At that time, only members of Comox Valley Nature were invited to nominate their favourite trees in the surrounding area.

Storey died in late 2020, and Cummins and Newhouse decided to expand the competition to the general public, in part to honour her legacy.

“She was so passionate about it, so excited to do it as a way to increase awareness,” said Cummins. “Just connection with nature, for one thing, which was big with her, and to increase the awareness of local trees here that are amazing. And to raise interest in the protection of trees, as well.”

SEE ALSO: ‘It’s amazing’: Photographer marvels at Victoria’s already flowering plum, cherry trees

In the months of February and March, Comox Valley Nature encourages people to nominate trees in the Comox Valley that mean something to them. There are no categories, although Comox Valley Nature encourages people to nominate trees that are native to the area.

Cummins said one of the most interesting parts of coordinating Trees of the Year is that she gets to hear the stories that often come with the nominated trees.

“They’re all different,” she said. “Sometimes it includes history, like they remember it as a child and every year they go back and check it… [Or] some kind of event has happened near it, or it’s a very historical tree, and they’ll take us back like 150 years when it’s a seedling. So it’s really a combination of the tree and the stories that people tell,” she said.

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Trees a crowd for this cluster surrounding a Western red cedar in Dove Creek. Photo courtesy of Comox Valley Nature

After the nomination period, which closes March 31, Comox Valley Nature will create cycling and walking routes for people to visit the trees.

“We really want to encourage people to use active transportation if at all possible,” Cummins said.

Unlike previous years, there will be no voting round. Rather than picking a winner, the focus is on celebrating all of the nominated trees. One nominator will be chosen at random to receive a small prize.

As for her favourite trees, “I have so many,” Cummins said.  But there are two spectacular old Douglas fir trees that deserve a special mention, and have been nominated multiple times. One is in Kitty Coleman Provincial Park and the other is near Comox Lake Bluffs Ecological Reserve.

“People aren’t really used to seeing fir trees that big,” she said.

Those who are interested in nominating a tree have until the end of March to submit. The form can be found on Comox Valley Nature’s website.

Past trees can also be found on their website under the Trees of the Year blog post, and previous winners can be found here.

Madeline Dunnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse

READ ALSO: New ‘sooty bark disease’ affecting trees on Vancouver Island

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