A massive Garry oak tree on Heron Street in Oak Bay is in the midst of its last days above ground, after living for what some estimate at 200 years or more on the site. It was diagnosed by Oak Bay parks experts as being badly infected with a fungus that has severely weakened the tree’s root system and left it in danger of toppling.
The tree, situated in front of 2382 Heron St. off Estevan Avenue, has been a central part of the neighbourhood since anyone can remember, says Ivan Watson, an Oak Bay resident who grew up a couple of houses away.
“I remember as a kid being fascinated by it, this massive, gnarled Garry oak tree that just dominates the streetscape,” he said Thursday (July 16), after shooting some photos of the tree and a video of the initial limb removal.
Watson has fond memories of playing street hockey under the protective branches of the tree, and felt that such a grand example of this endangered plant species deserved to be recognized before it was taken down.
“This is a tree that’s older than anyone alive today. Everyone I talked to is a little sad about it,” he said. That includes his parents, who still live on the street.
He noticed some neighbours taking pieces of the tree after crews finished for the day. “Even some of the branches that came down are massive pieces of wood that something could be made from.”
Part of the oak’s long history involved a protest 70 or 80 years ago when the street was first being paved. “The women of the neighbourhood banded together and linked arms in front of the tree, staring down the bulldozer. As a result, the paved road went around the tree,” said Watson.
Work by a municipal crew is expected to continue Friday on the tree removal. In a letter to nearby residents, municipal arborist Chris Paul wrote that the parks department plans to plant at least one Garry oak to replace the old tree and several other trees along the boulevard on that block of Heron Street.