Maples beat out oaks, though consultant says SD61 making a mistake

Seamus Howley, director of facilities for the Greater Victoria School District confirmed that seismic upgrading and renovations at the school led to the removal of the dying trees. Their trunks were also in decay, as outlined in a Feb. 28 removal permit issued to the school district.

  • Sep. 6, 2011 7:00 p.m.

They were a symbol of life over death, of victory and of Canadian soldiers.

They were seven silver maple memorial trees planted on April 20, 1917 along Vining Street at Victoria High school to honour those who fought in the First World War.

Last March they were removed, sparking a debate over what trees should replace the maples.

Seamus Howley, director of facilities for the Greater Victoria School District confirmed that seismic upgrading and renovations at the school led to the removal of the dying trees. Their trunks were also in decay, as outlined in a Feb. 28 removal permit issued to the school district.

The district would like to see the trees replaced with a similar maple tree and, at this point, are considering red maples.

“Within a relative short period of time,” Howley said, “the school and the community would have the same appearance that was there before.”

However, an expert consulted about replacing the trees actually advised against maples.

Ray Travers says oak trees are better suited for the urban site and will live about 300 years, twice as long as maples.

A forester, Travers is also a member of the Pacific Coast Branch of the Western Front Association, which works to raise awareness of the First World War.

Last year, the Greater Victoria School District held an open consultation, advising the community that the trees needed to come down and asking for input.

The trees will be planted in a commemorative ceremony on Nov. 10, 2011. The cost of the new trees, excluding labour, is estimated at $5,000.

“From a symbolic point of view, (memorial) trees are seen as a victory of life over death,” Travers said. “They are also places where families could come and grieve … a symbol of their soldier sons marching off along tree-lined streets in France and Flanders to the front where many of them didn’t come home.”

nnorth@saanichnews.com