On Saturday, Nov. 13, the neighbourhood of Chautauqua, and Niagara-on-the-Lake as a whole, lost one of its oldest and longest-serving residents.
The massive oak that had lived on Vincent Avenue for well over 200 years, one of the tallest in the neighbourhood and vibrantly healthy, was cut down for no specific reason.
Amid jeering remarks from the noble young men in their flying trapezes, the owner of the property showed me one of those “THIS IS NOT A PERMIT” permits, issued by the NOTL forestry service, indicating the tree was more than 70 per cent dead and a hazard to the public.
The tree was already 30 per cent cut down and the cut pile of 28-inch diameter trunks were without any signs of decay or rot whatsoever. In fact, the remaining standing tree was still with leaf.
The loss of this tree will have an immediate impact on the local environment. A loss of food and habitat for the local wildlife, the visual scar that the absence of this magnificent tree creates in our skyline and a massive gap in the windbreak that the line of trees once provided.
Chautauqua enjoys a very local and noticeable micro-climate, specifically because our tall trees mitigate the winter storms and summer heat.
I am not surprised that some people do not feel empathy for trees and often see them as a threat and a hindrance.
For these people, there are so many already clear-cut residential areas to choose from. Why come into a well-treed neighbourhood and immediately cut down the trees?
Chautauqua has lost about one-third of its tall trees in the last dozen years. Do the math: soon there will not be a tall tree left and we’ll be an alternately scorched and frozen, poorly dressed neighbourhood.
What does surprise me is that people see no value in trees. Their contribution to our comfort is one thing, but to send a huge, healthy oak tree into the chipper? Has anyone priced oak at the lumber store?
Today, British Columbia is a disaster area because of years of clear-cutting. Perhaps we have forgotten our way and lost sight of what has value. Let’s open our eyes.