We think a heritage tree protection bylaw is a good idea.
Anything that can help us avoid a situation like the one with the maple tree at the Island Savings Centre is at least worth thoroughly exploring.
The fight over the maple tree, which was slated to be removed for renovations to the parking lot, and due to safety concerns became incredibly divisive and passionate.
Competing opinions from professionals, accusations of bias and even accusations of intimidation on both sides made this one of the ugliest conflicts in Duncan in recent memory.
This was doubly sad because we remain convinced of the integrity and sincerity of those on both sides of the issue.
The local politicians who ultimately decided to go ahead with taking down the tree genuinely believed it was the best thing to do.
The protesters genuinely believed the tree should remain.
Perhaps if there is a bylaw in place, as North Cowichan is now considering, identifying trees that all agree are significant in the municipality it can bring clarity for expectations for development or renovation in the future when we’re talking about public property.
Perhaps then, we won’t get such rancour between people who all sincerely mean well and want the best for their community.
It’s still unlikely to be perfect, of course.
Old trees, even ones identified by such a bylaw, will have to be monitored and it is possible they will eventually have to be taken down if they become a safety hazard.
This may still cause some consternation among those who feel an attachment, but at least, we assume, any potential demolition of such a landmark would automatically trigger some kind of public process so that any action wouldn’t come as an unwelcome surprise.
Which trees would be included in a registry is also a matter that could be contentious.
Anything on private land, we imagine, would be an automatic no-go.
But it’s worth having these conversations before hitting a crisis point.
And the fact of the matter is, trees are important in our communities.
They provide shade and mitigate pollution. They are beautiful and enhance our enjoyment of our public spaces.
It’s not coincidence that the most desirable neighbourhoods in most cities boast streets and boulevards lined with mature trees. That’s what we want our communities to look like.