Tree comes down outside Island Savings Centre

The sound of chainsaws filled the air in the early morning hours in Duncan on Monday as the old maple tree on James Street was cut down.

The sound of chainsaws filled the air in the early morning hours in Duncan on Monday, Aug. 22, as the old maple tree on James Street was finally cut down.

Emmy Bayes said she was the only person at the tree who was standing guard at approximately 6:30 a.m. when workers arrived to begin work taking the tree down.

She said she was returning with a coffee when security guards prevented her from getting close to the tree, claiming it was unsafe and had to go.

I was all alone and couldn’t get to the tree to protect it,” Bayes said with tears in her eyes.

I can’t understand how I was trespassing on public property in my own neighbourhood.”

The tree, estimated to be between 150 and 200 years old, was located next to the Island Saving Centre’s parking lot on James Street.

It was scheduled to be taken down in June as part of the centre’s plan to upgrade the parking lot, but people opposed to its demise have been fighting to save it.

The Island Savings Centre Commission decided to postpone the decision to fell the tree until they had a dialogue with those that wanted it saved, and gathered more input into alternatives to cutting it down.

But, after a couple of meetings with the public, the commission decided on July 26 to move forward with plans to take it down.

However, when the tree was scheduled to be cut down on Aug. 5, about a dozen people linked arms around it and refused to be moved.

The commission was considering legal action to force people away from the tree to it could be cut down safely.

John Elzinga, manager of the Island Savings Centre, said the commission made the final decision to take the tree down on July 26 and, since then, it has been an “operational decision” by staff as to when it would occur.

Public safety was our main priority in the decision to cut the tree down on Monday,” he said.

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure, a member of the commission, said the commission hasn’t met since July 26, so no decision was made as to the possibility of legal action, and staff were left to decide as to when the tree should be cut down.

He said he has been told that there wasn’t much to salvage from the tree, other than some of the larger branches and pieces of the trunk.

The commission will decide in a public meeting what will happen to those parts of the tree,” Lefebure said.

Seairra Courtemanche, one of the leaders of the group that was fighting to save the tree, said the commission members weren’t listening to the public and “couldn’t get past” their set agenda and the costs associated with the tree and parking lot upgrade.

They did have a conversation with us, but it was under their own agenda,” she said.

They never had any respect for this tree. We need decision makers that have respect for the land.”

Courtemanche said she will continue to campaign for a heritage law for the region that will protect sacred sites.

Joyce Behnsen, a councillor from the Municipality of North Cowichan and a staunch defender of the tree, said she was “devastated” to learn that it had been taken down.

We had another petition going around to save the tree,” she said.

This is a nightmare and it’s wrong.”














Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
The old Yount school in Youbou has stood empty for years, but now a group has plans to turn it into a mixed-use property with affordable housing and tourist services. (Submitted)
Group sets sights on tranforming old Yount school property in Youbou

School District 79 has already commenced a process to sell the school through a formal proposal call

North Cowicha to extend the time lines of its official community plan update. (File photo)
North Cowichan to extend time line of OCP review

Municipality also adds $55,000 to OCP budget

Cowichan Capitals’ Logan Rands digs for the puck along the boards in the Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ zone midway through the third period of their BC Hockey League game at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Cowichan Capitals pick up first two wins of BCHL season

Brockman, Moffatt both up to four goals on the year

A nearly four-hour standoff at an apartment complex on Cowichan Lake Road in Duncan ended peacefully on Wednesday, April 14. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Police surround building as homeowner held in apartment by adult son

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The plane blasted through an airport fence and down a hill, before stopping before a cement barrier on Highway 5A, right in front of a school bus. Photo submitted.
Student pilot crashes plane onto Highway 5A almost hitting school bus

Aircraft hit pavement right in front of school bus

Eight-year-old Piper and her family were raising money to help Guinevere, the bearded dragon, get a gynecological surgery. Sadly, the reptile didn’t survive the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Lizard fails to survive surgery, GoFundMe dollars help Langley family offset medical bills

Guinevere, a pet bearded dragon, underwent an ovariectomy on Tuesday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A driver stopped by Saanich police following a road rage incident on April 15 was found to be impaired, in violation of a license restriction and in a damaged vehicle. They received a 90-day driving prohibition and a 30-day vehicle impound. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Road rager fails breathalyzer on busy B.C. highway in vehicle he shouldn’t be driving

Saanich police say man was operating vehicle without required ignition lock

The family of Iris McNeil, shown here with members of her family, has launched a petition to deny parole for the man who murdered McNeil in 1997. (Family photo)
Family fights killer’s release from Vancouver Island prison

Shortreed serving an indeterminate sentence at William Head Institution

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

Most Read