A long-standing Saanichton icon is no more. After decades of being firmly rooted near Mount Newton, alone in a crop field, a Garry Oak fell on Dec. 20.
Longview Farms in Saanichton issued what reads as a eulogy to the tree named Thunderheart:
“You have greeted residents and visitors of our community for decades as they come up Mt. Newton Cross Roads. You have kept our daffodils and hay crops company for many many years. Thank you for the beautiful morning sunrises, misty afternoons and moonlit nights. Your size and unique beauty through the seasons will be missed.”
Ryan Vantreight, general manager at Longview Farms, is the man behind the message. His family has been farming the Saanich Peninsula for generations, so he, like many others in the area, grew up with the tree. He said he was heartbroken when he got the call from a neighbour that the tree was down.
“I was surprised to see how the weight of it compacted. As it fell, it broke up. I was half expecting to see a tree there lying in the field, but it’s just a pile of broken branches,” he said. “You crest the bushes there coming up Mount Newton and you look into the field and nothing’s there. It’s a very strange feeling to look and not see that tree there.”
His post on Facebook has been shared more than 130 times, gaining hundreds of likes. Many shared their disappointment and photos of the tree standing throughout the years in snow, fog and a field of daffodils. In the end, one rain storm — with the help of winds up to 100 kilometres an hour — took the Garry Oak down.
“It’s been an overwhelming response from the community, how many people that tree was able to impact. It’s one of those things we never expected,” Vantreight said. “Some people say it’s just a tree, but you don’t know the impact of something until it is gone. When you drive past going in or out of Saanichton, that tree was always there — something that would always catch your eye because it was so unique.
“Even though it’s not our tree, I think all of us in Saanichton feel like it was one of our own that we lost.”
It was the previous owners of the land who named the tree Thunderheart. Longview Farms doesn’t know just how old the Garry Oak was, but Vantreight said it predates the memory of anyone he knows. He’s not sure if the owners will do a ring count to confirm its age.
As some asked if they could take a piece of the tree for a keepsake or to give it new life as handcrafted furniture, Longview Farms is also waiting for the answer. They only lease the land for their crops, and do not own the tree or know what McDonalds Farms, the current owner, plans to do with the remnants.
“Please don’t try to grab a piece of history, because in doing so, you’ll be trampling over a crop,” he said. “A lot of people want to be engaged and involved in it. We’re just asking them to be patient at this time.”
This morning, Vantreight is adding “Do not trespass” signs to the field. After all, it’s still home to the daffodils that weathered the storm.