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Lantzville residents decry loss of old Douglas fir for outfall

Some Lantzville residents say a way should have been found to not cut down the giant tree
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The trunk of a Douglas fir tree, believed to be more than 380 years old, cut down to make way for an outfall. Credit: Kathy Beliveau

Lantzville residents are mourning the loss of a nearly 400-year-old Douglas fir tree that until recently stood at the top of a bluff next to the waterfront.

It was cut down last month to create space for a new stormwater outfall.

Kathy Beliveau, who used to walk to the tree daily, said she was devastated when she discovered it had been cut down. “I couldn’t even breathe when I saw what happened.”

The massive tree’s root ball had stabilized the cliff, she said.

Beliveau said she remembers sitting next to it one day and realizing there was an eagle in the tree “staring at me for the longest time.”

Joan Jones, another Lantzville resident, is also unhappy that the tree is gone, saying environmentally friendly stormwater management practices should have been considered instead of cutting down the tree.

Stormwater outfalls can carry contaminants into the environment, said Jones, noting other municipalities are turning to a variety of solutions to replace outfalls.

“We should be looking at ways to manage our stormwater, especially given climate change when we get very, very heavy rainfalls sometimes.”

Based on its rings, the tree was 382 years old, she said.

The tree was part of Ruth Abramson’s daily walk, a place where she would admire the view. “I would stop there and sit down for a bit.” She recalls playing by the tree as a child while visiting her grandparents.

“It was a really peaceful place to be. Super special. I’ve lived in different parts of the world and the country, and it was always a place that I thought of when I was far away.”

Lantzville does not have a tree protection bylaw, but staff told council at a recent meeting that they could bring one forward shortly.

Coun. Ian Savage initiated a motion that staff not remove, alter or endanger any tree on district property with a trunk diameter of more than 12 inches without direction from council, unless the tree is causing a safety hazard.

Savage said that motion would be a temporary measure only to protect significant or large trees on district property.

At some point, there may be an inventory created of significant trees, he said, but, in the meantime, the district needs a safeguard to ensure it does not lose another tree such as the one cut down.

“It must be made abundantly clear how much the community values these trees and we must protect them as much as possible.”

Staff told council that a nearby private property owner is developing their land, and the municipality required that an old outfall on the site be relocated to public land.

The developer’s contractor who took the tree down was supposed to notify nearby residents of what would take place but that did not happen, council was told.

A plan had been worked out that allowed the fir to be taken down, while avoiding losing several other trees, said Fred Spears, district director of public works.

The replacement outfall will redirect existing drainage and be able to handle future growth, council heard.

The developer will pay for the outfall because new roadways are expected to increase runoff.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com