Toronto

City staff decide not to go out on a limb for 250-year-old red oak

It appears the city's oldest tree won't be getting its own park after all. The red oak that sits in the back yard of 76 Coral Gables Dr. in North York is estimated to be at least 250 years old.

No deal in sight after three months of fruitless talks

Edith George lives around the corner from the home on Coral Gables Drive where the red oak sits. She's been working to have it preserved in a park for 13 years. (Mike Smee/CBC)

It appears the city's oldest tree won't be getting its own park, after all.

The red oak that sits in the back yard of 76 Coral Gables Dr. in North York is estimated to be at least 250 years old.

City council voted last summer to buy the the property, and raze the house. The land would then be turned into a park with the tree as its centrepiece.

But in a report made public Tuesday, city staff say negotiations are going nowhere and should be abandoned.

The red oak at the rear of this house on Coral Gables Drive in North York has been there for at least 250 years. (Mike Smee/CBC)

"Staff have negotiated with the property owner over an approximate span of three months and were unable to agree on a purchase price for the property," the report states. "As a result, Real Estate Services, the Toronto Office of Partnerships, and Parks, Forestry and Recreation are in agreement to cease pursuing the acquisition of the property."

"I'm really upset now," Edith George, a neighbour who has spearheaded the effort to have the city acquire the tree, said on hearing the news Tuesday.

"You just ruined my whole day."

Coun. Anthony Perruzza, who represents Ward 7, Humber River-Black Creek, said he was disappointed, but understands how difficult the city's negotiating position was. (Darek Zdzienicki/CBC )

The tree's cultural significance has been recognized by the provincial government's Heritage Tree Program, and George said she has applied to have it protected by the federal government as a national historic site.

"The stories that this tree could tell of the history of our country," she said. "And shame on the city."

The councillor for the area, Anthony Perruzza said he was disappointed in the outcome. But he said the city was in a tough situation, because it was well known that councillors wanted to buy the property for parkland.

"If you have a person on one side who sees the city has a direction to buy this tree, you might be willing to hold out and say 'I can get a little more,'" Perruzza said.

"There's obviously a limit."

'Disappointing'

The homeowner's realtor, Waleed Khaled Elsayed, wouldn't discuss details of the negotiations, but said the city's decision "saddens me.

"It's disappointing. I'll reconvene with the seller and we'll figure out what our plans are moving forward."

The city staff report goes to the general government and licensing committee March 5, and to city council later next month.

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