Heritage tree bylaw floated for North Cowichan

The Municipality of North Cowichan is considering a bylaw to protect heritage trees.

The Municipality of North Cowichan is considering a bylaw to protect heritage trees.

The issue was raised in a presentation to council on Oct. 5 by Kathryn Swan, a member of the Cowichan Valley Naturalists Society.

She said that a high number of trees that are considered by many as “significant and heritage” are being taken down as development spreads across the municipality.

Swan suggested the municipality hire an urban forest coordinator, establish a tree-protection standing committee consisting of representatives from local governments and stakeholders that would help identify heritage trees, and enact the tree-protection bylaw.

“Communities like Duncan, Nanaimo, Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay have tree bylaws and urban-forest strategies that we can build on,” Swan said.

“One tree in North Cowichan that comes to mind is the willow tree in front of Cowichan Secondary School.

“That was planted by the graduating class of 1958 and is very meaningful to that class,” Swan said.

The issue of the place of trees that are considered by many to be “heritage” came to the forefront this summer with plans by the Island Savings Centre to remove an aging maple tree to make way for an upgrade to its parking lot on James Street in Duncan.

But the plans to remove the tree, which was on land owned by North Cowichan, were postponed twice as people who sought to save it prevented workers from cutting it down.

The tree was finally taken down in the early hours of Aug. 22, much to the dismay of those who sought to protect it, and many have turned their energy towards seeing the municipality enact a tree protection bylaw.

Coun. Joyce Behnsen said North Cowichan has both urban and rural areas containing many trees regarded as heritage or significant, and she would like to see a tree protection bylaw established in the municipality. “We’re further behind other jurisdictions on this issue and we need to get caught up,” she said.

Staff are preparing a report on the issue that will be tabled at a future council meeting.