On Friday, Feb. 5, a Douglas-fir tree was hastily felled while hundreds of school children watched. Many with wonder, some crying, and all-in shock.
This tree was healthy and over 125 years old. In four hours, century old history, knowledge, and a future were un-ceremonially lost.
This tree was alive when the Klondike Gold Rush began, during both World Wars it resiliently grew towards the sun, all through the Winnipeg General Strike, when Henderson scored a goal in Moscow, while the Wright brothers figured out the secrets of getting humans into airplanes, and any student who ever attended school in Aldergrove, this tree stood, stately above all the rest, rooted deeply on the slope north of Philip Jackman Park.
When the land was sold this summer to a group of local investors, neighbours watched nervously as ground cover was removed, hundreds of cottonwoods were chipped and finally the orange flagging tape was pinned into remaining, healthy evergreens.
The white permit stating that the removal of 24 trees would be executed within the year. Conversations with the project manager relayed that housing development is the projection but the company isn’t in a rush and likely will not start for at least two years. I wonder why there was so much haste?
With trees, there aren’t huge penalties and once they are gone, they are gone. Best get rid of the trees before people notice or say anything? We have failed this space and we will never know it in this fullness again. He said they have the right to take down all the trees on the property.
I respect land ownership and want people to have say over what they deem important for their land. Trust me, I’m Lheidle T’enneh, and my people have been fighting for land rights for centuries, I get it. However, the importance of land is community and arguably globally invested and I wonder if ‘right’ is the best verbiage going forward.
Our group think, daily actions, and at the very least our bylaws should reflect the need for a holistic approach to living on this planet.
I have looked at the available municipal and provincial property data, because when I asked the tree faller why they had to take down a healthy tree, he said it was smack dab in the middle of a property line, yet data with the Provincial Land Title Office shows that the property has not been subdivided, and according to the Township’s development activity website, no development proposal has been formally submitted.
So, again I wonder, why the haste? This apparent rush to remove trees certainly call into intentions for this property and the transparency on the part of both the developer and the Township.
There are developments out there that incorporate healthy, old trees into their plans, increasing value. Predator Ridge in Vernon and Garrison Village in Chilliwack to name two.
Getting creative, innovative and keeping community well-being as a driving factor needs to become our norm, quickly. I know there are measures in place to assuage the pressures on the land but an ecosystem with a 125 year old Mother Tree is a masterpiece and can never be replicated, especially not by quick fix, builder quality trees.
We have finite space on this planet and there will be a tipping point where the land will no longer be able to provide. Mother nature will collect her remaining and seek refuge in Eden.
Hydrologically, this land has provided the necessary water storage to mitigate the flooding problems that plague Philip Jackman Park, and Parkside School.
The thick clay soil, and drier summers have created a cement like hard pan close to the soil surface. This past month I have watched seepage zones expand and there is an overland flow over the entire slope at the school and into Philip Jackman Park. Any more water and there will be a slide or slump.
There is so much mud created by this extra, pooling water that is becoming unsafe, uncomfortable and exceptionally muddy for students to play outside on rainy days.
For 10 years I have been taking Grade one and two students on exploratory, place-based “nature” walks in this Aldergrove neighbourhood. Taking weekly walks, observing, recording and reflecting on this 2.4 acres taught us so much about the biodiversity and richness of this special space.
The children and I have recorded over 40 different bird species, frogs, newts, toads, snails, rodents, and once we even saw bear scat. During these neighbourhood walks, nature was the teacher.
We saw birds build nests, fledglings fly for the first time, and one April morning, the children learned to be so still and respectful that a ‘charm’ of hummingbirds surrounded us, allowing us to feel the pulsing energy of their rapid movements. It was magical.
Teaching alongside nature has nurtured my professional and personal soul in a way that fosters joy in my work and devotion to a career that can be all consuming. This loss of natural space is shattering to me and my students.
When hope is pressured by an uncertain future, surrounding greed, exclusion, and fear, its fracturing releases a part of one’s soul that can only be captivated by the source of hope itself.
Let’s believe this is possible. I am encouraged by the recent letters written by Diane Kask and Liz Pahlke and hope others find a way to encourage wisdom and healthy, whole communities. This isn’t just about this particular fir tree, it’s so much more.
Watching that tree fall on Friday has broken something inside me I can’t describe or explain in English.
In the Fort George dialect of Carrier, there is a word for the “tear tract left on your face” natsultook’oh.
This tear has wept into my blood leaving tracts in my soul and there is no word to describe this.
Carleigh Johnston, Aldergrove
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