Second arborist says Duncan maple tree can be saved

The old maple tree on James Street is not yet at the end of its life, and can be maintained in a way that’s safe

The old maple tree on James Street is not yet at the end of its life, and can be maintained in a way that’s safe for the public for some time, according to a certified arborist.

Todd Gesshe, from Duncan’s Cascara Landscape & Garden Design, said in a letter to the Cowichan Valley Regional District that a “thorough analysis” into the preservation of the tree is warranted.

Gesshe said that with its diameter, which he determined to be 2.7 metres, the maple tree ranks at least sixth in B.C. for trunk size among “big-leaf” maples.

“That fact alone, I feel, designates the tree as an exceptional specimen worthy of exploring options for preservation,” he said.

The tree, estimated to be up to 200 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 hired by the CVRD completed a report on the health of the tree, which is hollow in its centre, in which it’s concluded that the tree should be removed because it poses a threat to public safety.

The CVRD leases the property from the Municipality of North Cowichan.

However, many in the community have rallied to save the tree and prevented work crews from cutting it down.

The staff at the CVRD is currently gathering information that was requested by the Island Savings Centre Commission, and a final decision on the fate of the tree is expected to be made in the coming weeks.

In the letter to the CVRD, Gesshe said many of the arguments being used to demonstrate the need for the tree to be taken down are inadequate.

He said that, although a “central column of decay is clearly present”, the tree is still growing new wood in response.

“It’s quite common for old trees to have a central-decay column, but as long as the response growth is sound and the crown (of the tree) is healthy, this cylindrical structure can continue to support tree growth for many years,” Gesshe said.

“There are numerous strategies that can be employed to preserve mature trees and minimize construction impacts, but it requires the will to do so, the input of a certified arborist and the co-operation of all parties involved.”