The tree located at the intersection of Wharf, Humboldt and Government Streets will be taken down to accommodate the new bike lane and pedestrian scramble. A neighbouring tree was already chopped down. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Residents push back on downtown Victoria tree removal

The birch tree at the Wharf-Government intersection will be removed to make way for bike lanes

A tall birch tree at the Wharf, Humboldt and Government streets intersection is facing its last days.

The tree will be chopped to make room for the Wharf/Humboldt bike lanes, and to accommodate a new pedestrian scramble intersection.

While bike lanes are a great addition to a greener city, Community Trees Matter Network member Nancy Lane Macgregor says trees are too.

“We feel like it’s absolutely necessary that we maintain the urban forest,” Macgregor said. “It’s very significant because it’s at the centre of the old city where people come from all over the world. It’s going to just be a cement place with some sticks; it doesn’t add up, it’s not a good plan.”

READ MORE: Celebration of Life hosted for 29 Victoria trees set to be removed

The City looked long and hard at alternative plans, said Fraser Work, director of engineering and public works, but at the end of the day the tree has to go.

“When we looked at all the biggest dimensions we had to balance we realized after different looks and compromises that we wouldn’t be able to make it work,” Work said, adding that no modern-day planner would place a tree in that location.

“If you were going to put a tree in an urban environment you wouldn’t put it there; they’re all wrapped around underground infrastructure. It’s not good for the tree, or for the next person who flushes their toilet.”

One spruce tree has already been removed due to the roots wrapping around underground infrastructure, and the birch will have to go to accommodate new aspects of the intersection, including improved pedestrian safety measures.

ALSO READ: Resident charged $48,350 fine for poisoning large Oak Bay tree

“It’s a very busy pedestrian intersection,” Work said “Right now the sidewalk gets choked up, especially in the summer when there are people congregating around the Information Centre. People in wheelchairs or the elderly can’t get by, so you get accessibility concerns.”

Additionally, the intersection serves as a main artery for transit buses, tour buses, emergency vehicles and large trucks, all of which need room.

Work said that even if the City attempted to pave around the tree, they’d likely damage or kill it.

“The tree canopy is a mirror of the roots, so paving near it you actually could end up hurting the tree or ending its life by trying to maintain the area,” Work said. “You can’t shave it so close.”

ALSO READ: Cutting down 25 trees costs B.C. man more than $80,000

Two oak trees will be installed near the Visitor Information Centre after renovations are over, a spot Work said is much more practical.

However, Macgregor said replacing trees isn’t an even switch.

“If you’re taking out a 50 year old tree and putting in a sapling, you’re removing all this growth that’s already a service to climate change,” she said. “It’s going to take another 45 years or so for this tree to be productive or useful. Putting in a sapling isn’t going to fix things.”

People against the removal have already placed paper hearts on the surrounding fence, and Macgregor says more efforts to protest the removal will happen.

“There’s more to think about than cement,” she said.

The tree is scheduled for removal by the end of January.

READ ALSO:Victoria’s oldest pipes to be replaced this year

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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The tree located at the intersection of Wharf, Humboldt and Government Streets will be taken down to accommodate the new bike lane and pedestrian scramble. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

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