Oak Bay’s Garry oak tree protection bylaw may not exist if it wasn’t for the late Trevor Williams.
Williams, who died in January from cancer, helped launch the Oak Bay Green Committee (OBGC) in 2005 after a copper beech tree on Bartlett Avenue, next to his home was taken down by developers. He and his wife Valerie Williams then learned Oak Bay had no tree protection bylaw, even for the beloved Garry Oak. In 2006, the Garry Oak tree protection bylaw was passed after much public debate.
“It was a hard and dreadful fight,” said Terri Hunter, who now runs the Oak Bay Green Committee with her partner, David Godfrey. “Some people did not want a tree protection bylaw.”
Williams, and the grassroots group he formed, faced opposition from many on council at the time, including developers and homeowners who felt having such a bylaw infringed on their property rights, said Hunter. Harassment and heated arguments followed, but after more than a year and some concessions made on both sides, Oak Bay’s first tree protection bylaw passed. Hunter said, while the bylaw is not perfect – it doesn’t include protection for trees on municipal property – Williams saw beyond that. The bylaw and people’s views on tree protection have evolved since.
“He had a steady eye on the goal,” said Stephanie Mann, a former member of the OBGC. “Trevor was calm, a voice of reason and a very, very nice man.”
Williams travelled frequently for work, but was still heavily involved with community green projects, said Rene de Vos, also a former member of the OBGC.
“He was our back up,” de Vos said. “He was a quiet, supportive partner for sure and he certainly contributed a lot (including) financially.”
Williams and Valerie also launched the soft plastics recycling depot, lobbied for the anti-idling bylaw and started an environmental advocacy website, greenmuze.com.
“He was an environmentalist and he walked the talk,” Mann said. “He really did.”
The Williams eventually moved to Salt Spring Island.
He was diagnosed with terminal cancer in November 2012 and died at Royal Jubilee Hospital the following January at age 47. The day before his death, Williams received his PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Victoria in a special ceremony held in the hospital.
On Monday afternoon (Dec. 2), a young Garry Oak tree was planted in the greenbelt between 813 and 827 Oliver Street, across from Monterey school, a few blocks from where Williams once lived. Those attending the planting remembered the impact Williams left on them and the community.
“It was quite a loss,” Mann said.
“Whenever I walk by or drive by, I will think of Trevor. It will be here forever. As long as we have tree protection.”