Emily the tree is dead. She was felled in the name of development.
Emily, if you weren’t aware, is the name bestowed by locals to the iconic pin oak tree whose scarlet leaves invigorated the tired Cordova Bay Plaza with a splash of life. Whether you knew Emily by name or not, you couldn’t miss the giant tree, an oasis in the deserted Cordova Bay Plaza parking lot. Recently, Emily inspired an outcry from a number of Cordova Bay villagers in the final moments before the new Cordova Bay redevelopment was approved. (The removal of Emily and other trees were included in the plans.)
The new shopping centre is comprised of three four-storey buildings with multiple ground-floor commercial suites, underground parking and 91 residential homes.
And so, it was a down moment earlier this month as villagers happened upon the iconic Emily who, for the first time in decades, was no longer in the regal upright stance overlooking the Haro Straight. Instead, Emily was reduced to logs in a box.
Steve Corner was among those who took the chance to memorialize the great oak. “It was a sad and unnecessary ending to [Emily’s] life,” said Corner. “[Emily] could have provided many more years for all to enjoy with a little thought in the design of the new development.”
Before it was felled, the tree inspired 18-year-old Claremont grad Matthew Cain to paint it. He not only captured the tree’s essence but also spoke to Saanich council – prior to the development approval – on behalf of retaining the tree for its spiritual and community value.
Others equally lamented the loss of Emily.
Development continues to result in urban tree canopy loss at a consistent rate across Greater Victoria and Saanich. Most urban trees are felled for development, which remains strong, likely at a pace similar to the 378 hectares of tree cover lost between 2005 and 2011.