British Columbia

Loss of Victoria landmark lamented as windswept tree gets axe

Twisted, stunted, and battered by storms and passing vehicles, the distinctive tree was regarded by many as a symbol of endurance.

A century-old horse chestnut tree makes way for a sewage treatment pipe and bike path.

The windswept tree, as it was known, appeared in City of Victoria Archives photos along with historic ships and early automobiles. CVA M07421 (City of Victoria Archives )

Twisted, stunted and battered by storms for a century, a landmark horse chestnut tree was razed on Victoria's Dallas Road waterfront Friday despite public calls for its protection. 

The "windswept tree," as it was known, is estimated to have survived for a century on a narrow strip of land between the roadway and the eroding cliffs.

"Everyone loved that tree," former Victoria city councillor Pam Madoff told CBC All Points West host Robyn Burns. 

The tree was slated for removal because it was in the path of construction for the region's sewage treatment pipe, as well as a planned waterfront bike path.

Former Victoria city councillor Pamela Madoff said she was surprised by the tree removal plans because she had been assured it was not in danger. She said there was scant notice and no public consultation about the decision. (CHEK News)

Thomas Soulliere, Victoria director of parks, recreation and facilities said the city had to choose between removing either the chestnut or a large, healthy elm on the opposite side of the road. 

"It is not a healthy tree," Soulliere said of the chestnut tree, citing a professional arborist's assessment. "It does have internal decay. It has damage from vehicle strikes over the years and in general is in poor condition."

Madoff, a longtime heritage advocate, challenged what she called a convenient diagnosis for a tree in an inconvenient spot. Two years ago, Madoff said, she was assured by city officials the tree would not be endangered by the sewage treatment project. 

The former councillor said the tree acquired numerous nicknames over the years, including the Narnia Tree, after the books and films, and the Duck Tree. 

The stump of the so-called windswept tree remains Aug. 2 where an underground wastewater treatment pipe and new bike path will be installed. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

"When the Narnia Chronicles were popular, kids used to talk about thinking of it as the closet in Narnia." she said. 

 "Other children, I've heard, whenever they would go along Dallas road they'd all squeal 'Duck!' as they went under the tree. So it became known as the Duck Tree as well."

Madoff said the stunted horse chestnut earned its iconic status by surviving in that location. 

"If you think that that horse chestnut has withstood those gales on Dallas road for 100 years in very inhospitable conditions, I would be looking to do anything I could to preserve it and to allow it to continue to flourish," she said. 

With files from CBC Radio All Points West 


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