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VIDEO: Community celebrates leaning Oak Bay tree ahead of removal

The tree is set to be removed because of its precarious position leaning over a public walkway

A venerable old tree tipping over the Oak Bay waterfront will take at least one woman’s secrets with it when it comes down this week.

The old oak is deemed dangerous as it leans over the sidewalk on Beach Drive, shallow roots bulging near the roadway.

Community came together to celebrate the things it’s seen and heard over the years, sharing stories of how the tree impacted them. One woman telling of secrets spoken in solitude at 3 a.m.

“It’s seen so many things,” said Steven Ross Smith, who took the lead to “provide focus” as folks gathered to send off the gnarled and stately elder on Monday (April 1).

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“This Garry oak has held its place for many many decades, more than all of us, through varied iterations of seasons, peoples, architectures and traffics,” Smith said. “Today, this program to celebrate this tree is meant to say farewell to its distinctive gorgeous arching being.”

Folks took a moment of reverent silence, held hands and encircled the tree, paused to read the memoirs left in a gaping nook of the leaning oak, touched its bark, told stories and revelled in its age – lingering at the shoreline long before anyone alive now did.

The tree is poised for removal this week because of its precarious position leaning over a public walkway. Oak Bay staff have been measuring its lean for many years, and has slowly been increasing.

In 2021, the tree canopy was significantly reduced with the hope that the lean of the tree would not increase, said parks manager Chris Hyde-Lay.

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“The tree’s lean seemed to briefly stabilize but unfortunately with our last measurement the tree trunk moved again. A stability pull test was also preformed that showed unnatural lower truck movement at the root collar,” Hyde-Lay said.

Further trimming back was considered but while it may reduce short-term risk, other defects remain.

“An extensive canopy pruning would also change the natural form and character of the tree that at present make it a desirable feature in the landscape. In our professional opinion, regardless of the pruning and monitoring, the removal of the tree would be required at some time in the near future,” Hyde-Lay said.

The district plans to try and accommodate those who have expressed interest in using some of the wood, including residents and Glenlyon Norfolk School.

The tree will be replaced by another Garry oak.