The popular “Harry Potter tree” in Victoria has been flagged for removal to make way for a sewage pipe and bike path.
The removal notice for the well-known tree contorted by storms over decades at Dallas Road near the Harrison Yacht Pond made waves on Monday after it was brought to the attention of former Victoria city councillor Pam Madoff.
Madoff, who lost her council seat in 2018, said she visited the tree on July 29 after a neighbour alerted her to the sign, which was printed more than a week prior and placed by the Capital Regional District (CRD).
While Madoff said she thinks the City typically follows a robust notification process for tree removal, she added this decision seems to have slipped through the cracks.
The sign is “basically buried inside the tree in a very non-visible area,” she said, adding the section of road is currently closed to vehicle traffic and sidewalk access is limited due to the construction. According to the sign, the old chestnut tree has to be removed to allow for the CRD forcemain/bike path project as well as the retention of the elm tree canopy across the street.
“The City of Victoria works to keep our 33,000 City-owned trees healthy and beautiful,” the sign reads. “We maintain these trees, plant new trees and remove trees that are no longer healthy and often pose risks to our community.”
Madoff said she remembers the CRD making a presentation about the project, which will pipe sewage from Clover Point down Dallas Road to Ogden Point, to council in 2018. She brought up the wind-blown landmark and felt satisfied that staff were going to do everything they could to protect it.
“You could tell from the way they were nodding and their body language … I assumed that was all in hand,” she said.
Though removal has now been scheduled for sometime between Aug. 1 and 30, Madoff said she hopes there can still be an option for retention.
“It would seem that with some thoughtfulness both could have been accomplished,” she said, speaking of the retention of the elm canopy in addition to the chestnut tree. “It actually brings a bit of magic to the city at a time when it seems we’re losing it.”
She said Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe has contacted her expressing interest in saving the tree. Black Press Media has reached out to Thornton-Joe for comment by phone and will update the story once the comment is available.
Bill Eisenhauer, head of engagement at the City of Victoria, told Black Press Media the project area in question is too narrow to retain both the contorted tree and the elm canopy.
“It was a tough decision that had to be made with regard to which tree to retain because there’s just not enough space in that area,” he said, adding that the health of the trees factored into decision-making at the final design phase.
A certified arborist conducted a full investigation of the trees, he said, and found that while the elm canopy on the north side of the street is healthy, the contorted tree on the south side is not.
“The windswept horse chestnut has internal decay, damage from vehicle strikes and is generally in poor condition,” he said.
As part of the CRD project commitment to replace any tree removed at a 2:1 ratio, Eisenhauer said for the work on Dallas Road, 90 trees will be planted at locations determined by City staff.