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Langford senior sleeps in car thanks to destructive trees she can’t remove

Kate Cowan leases mobile home lot, so she can’t apply to have the trees taken down
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Hidden Valley Mobile Home Park resident Kate Cowan paid for an arborist to produce a report, which recommended the trees come down. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)

Kate Cowan didn’t imagine she’d be spending her senior years sleeping in her car at night.

But the Langford resident feels she has no choice.

Cowan lives in the Hidden Valley Mobile Home Park, a community for seniors near Florence Lake. Near her mobile home are three trees, the roots of which have caused cracks in her driveway. That’s according to an arborist Cowan hired, who also said the trees likely shifted the foundation of her house – which she paid $6,500 to re-level – and therefore recommended the trees be removed to prevent further damage.

“The recommendation for removal does not come lightly, but the trees have caused substantial damage to property, and the future potential for further damage is high. It is of consolation however that these trees are located within an area with a high canopy density. Their removal will not significantly impact the aesthetic appeal of the area, nor will it negatively impact any trees to be retained during this process,” wrote Kenneth Babineau, an arborist with Anchor Tree Service.

The problem is Cowan is leasing the land from the park’s owners Timberlands Properties Inc., meaning despite the arborist’s report the City of Langford can’t grant her an exemption to cut down the tree, according to a city spokesperson.

Now she is living in limbo.

Anxiety about the trees mean Cowan felt safer sleeping in her car for a couple of nights last week, with another park resident offering her a spot to sleep on their couch a couple of other nights.

The park owners could still apply for an exemption to the tree protection bylaw to have them removed, but Cowan isn’t holding out hope.

“Timberland has to take some responsibility, some of these trees have gotten way out of hand.”

Several people have faced problems in the park with trees. While an idyllic location, the densely forested mobile home park has been susceptible to trees falling during heavy storms, like the flooding in November 2021 or a windstorm in April 2022. One woman was hospitalized and several people have been forced to move out of the park with their homes condemned.

Timberlands Properties Inc. did not respond to a request for comment.

Some have suggested moving the mobile home, or that Cowan should sell her home and move out altogether, but she said moving the trailer would be expensive and there’s limited space on the lot.

“I’m not giving to give up. People say, ‘Why don’t you just sell it and move somewhere else.’ I said, ‘Well, where?’ I can’t afford anywhere else and this is my home. And I would feel guilty for selling it to someone knowing darn well this is a big problem.”

If there’s no solution to the roots, Cowan said she plans on spending hundreds of dollars every few months to keep the house level.

“Just keep getting it levelled, until something’s done about the roots, that’s all I can do.”

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