The old maple tree on James Street has been saved from the chopping block once again; at least for a couple of weeks.
The Island Savings Centre Commission voted Wednesday to postpone a decision on a recommendation from staff to take the tree down until further information is provided.
At a meeting at the Island Savings Centre, commission members instructed staff to get a second opinion on the health of the tree from another independent arborist, and stated that the report will be made public before a final decision is made.
Staff were also instructed to determine the costs for securing the tree and the ongoing costs for its maintenance, if a decision is made to leave it in place.
As well, staff were told to determine the costs and/or savings by changing the design of the new parking lot at the centre if the tree is not taken down.
Commission chairwoman Sharon Jackson said the ISCC will hold a special meeting in approximately two weeks to assess the new information from staff and consider the future of the tree.
Commission member and regional district chairman Jon Lefebure said the body isn’t trying “to duck” a final decision on the tree.
He said the commission should have as much information as possible and questions answered before it can make an informed decision on the tree.
“We need this information so the public has assurances that we carefully considered all aspects of the issue,” he said.
The tree, estimated to be approximately 150 years old, was scheduled to be cut down last month as part of the plans by the Island Savings Centre to upgrade its parking lot.
An independent arborist completed a report on the health of the old tree, which is hollow in its centre, for the commission. The report concluded the tree should be removed because it poses a threat to public safety.
However, many in the community have rallied to save it and prevented work crews from cutting it down.
As a result, the Cowichan Valley Regional District, which leases the ISCC property from the Municipality of North Cowichan, decided to postpone plans at the time to take the tree down until it received more input from the public.
Commission member Alison Nicholson said it’s clear that many people want to see the tree preserved, and an arborist has claimed that there is a way to look after the tree to prolong its life, and possibly make it safe for the public as well.
“We should look into that and consider modifying the parking lot to accommodate it,” she said.
Seairra Courtemanche, one of the organizers of the campaign to save the tree, said she was cautiously optimistic after the meeting.
“It gives us time to address the concerns with the tree and make it clear it is safe for the public,” she said.