Friends of 'Dougy Fir' lose court fight to save 300-year-old tree; get dinged with Saanich's legal fees

Cadboro Bay residents could only watch as workers cut down what is believed to be a 300-year-old suburban tree that had been the focus of a court battle.

People from the Saanich neighbourhood had blocked municipal workers from cutting it down this month, but staff retaliated by taking the protesters to court.

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On Friday, the B.C. Supreme Court approved the district’s application to have the diseased tree removed, on the ground that it poses a danger to public safety. Police also had been given authorization to arrest anyone who interfered with its removal.

The two men identified in court documents — Bob Furber and Max Cowper-Smith — considered appealing the decision, but by Monday morning, it was too late. Work crews started sawing away at the tree by 9 a.m.

First, the chainsaws cut through the limbs of the towering Douglas fir. Then it was sectioned off from the top down, much to the dismay of neighbours.

“It’s a sad day for sure,” Furber said. “We watched it come down limb by limb.”

The court ruling could also be an expensive one for Furber and Cowper-Smith.

The two men will now share Saanich’s legal fees, which could range anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000, Furber had said Sunday afternoon as he prepared for an evening vigil in honour of the tree that he and neighbours nicknamed “Dougy Fir.”

“We’re not too pleased about that,” he said. “It could be a significant chunk of money.”

Furber said his annual charity contributions will be significantly decreased this year, depending on the financial damage.

He and his wife donate to  health-care, environmental and humanitarian organizations every year.

“This year it’s going to be less,” Furber said. “Saanich will get more money and somebody else who really needs it is going to get less.”

Several neighbours showed up Sunday evening to light candles and say farewell to the tree, which had been around since long before the neighbourhood was built.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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