Jeanette Funke-Furber stood under the canopy of a massive Douglas fir near the entrance to Ten Mile Point and chatted with two cyclists.
“I’m just bringing them up to speed with the tree,” Funke-Furber said.
The couple, clad in helmets and shades, hovered over their bike seats and listened to the 70-year-old Telegraph Bay road resident. Though interested in learning more about her plight to save the tree, the cyclists said they needed more information to be convinced, and they continued along their ride.
Beside the tree, a hand-lettered sign read: “Celebrate the majestic life and mourn the tragic death of this ancient Douglas fir: POSTPONED.”
The boulevard tree has fallen victim to a rot-causing fungus, phaeolus schweinitzii, and the Saanich parks department had deemed that it should be removed, given its size and location in an area prone to high winds.
Funke-Furber and a group of concerned residents then hired their own arborist to conduct an independent review of the health of the tree, a process that resulted in the same conclusion as Saanich’s testing.
On Monday Funke-Furber and a handful of members of the Cadboro Bay community were set to say their final goodbyes to the tree, which was scheduled to be cut down that afternoon. They had planned a ceremony that included a blessing from the Songhees Nation.
“Look at this beautiful tree,” Funke-Furber said. “It’s been here for probably 300 years, before the white man came. Removing this tree should not be taken lightly and we wanted to celebrate its life. It’s been a friend in this community for a long time. Hundreds of people have walked by the tree – thousands.”
Then later on Monday, the municipality allowed another concerned Cadboro Bay resident, Max Cowper-Smith, to seek out a third, in-depth assessment on the health of the tree and delayed the removal until that assessment is complete.
“It could be that Saanich is right and that this tree needs to come down,” said Cowper-Smith, “but there are a number of other tests and assessments that can be done that haven’t been done yet.”
There is no deadline on when and if the tree will be removed, said Rae Roer, manager of Saanich parks.
“If it has to come down and it’s a complete danger, we’ll have to accept that, but we want to make darn sure that it’s a danger,” Funke-Furber said.
Since resistograph testing – which measure the degree of tree rot at wall thickness – was completed in June, the parks department removed one tree on municipal land at the site and modified another.
“We’ve waited this long (to remove it), we’re happy to wait another day or so,” Roer said. “What we’re trying to do is to balance the interest of the urban forest with the health and safety of the community.”