Oak Bay levies $48,350 fine for poisoning boulevard tree

The person responsible for poisoning a horse chestnut tree on a Beach Drive boulevard has agreed to pay the District of Oak Bay $48,350.

The tree, which was about 80 years old and 18 metres tall, was taken down this week because of the poison and will eventually be replaced.

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“It was a beautiful tree,” said Chris Hyde-Lay, Oak Bay’s manager of park services, adding the replacement tree will not necessarily be a horse chestnut. “It will be a tree that will have a similar size at maturity.”

Hyde-Lay said the new tree will be selected based on factors such as the esthetics of the poisoned tree and its contribution to the neighbourhood.

Nearby resident Sharon Krebs, who could see the tree from her bedroom window, told CHEK News that she first thought something was wrong in May when she noticed an unusual amount of debris coming from the tree. She said she was informed that someone had drilled holes in the base of the tree and filled them with poison.

There are theories in the area about who harmed the tree, Krebs said.

“No matter who it is, it’s awful,” she said.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, who passes the reins to mayor-elect Kevin Murdoch on Nov. 5, said he was sad to see the tree go. “Any time that a tree is removed without permission or, as in this case, killed, that’s not good for our urban tree canopy,” Jensen said.

“We’ve shown in the past, and will continue as we go forward, to be very hard on people who choose to break the rules.”

The considerable payment amount, which reflects the appraised value of the tree based on the biggest transplantable tree available, recognizes that trees are important to Oak Bay residents, said Jensen, noting Oak Bay’s tree canopy covers about 33 per cent of the municipality.

“[It’s] an excellent way to recognize that there are serious consequences, and also to reinstate a significantly large tree.

“It was a willingness on both sides to resolve the matter in this way and I think the community in the long run benefits.”

The person involved is not being identified.

Jensen called Oak Bay’s urban forest a “defining feature” of the community that needs to be protected for future generations.

Tree vandalism comes up periodically in Greater Victoria. In 2000, 23 ornamental trees were poisoned along Douglas Street. Six years later, nine trees were removed from Phyllis Park on Saanich’s Ten Mile Point.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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