In 1937, a cooper beech seedling from the King's Forest at Windsor Castle in England was planted by Ruth Fenton at the former Brackendale School, commemorating the coronation of King George VI. Now 69 years later, the significance of the tree is being rediscovered by locals who want it protected and identified for its importance in Squamish's history.The year the tree was planted, Fenton was in grade six and had been chosen as May Queen for the former Brackendale School located on Government Road, just south of Leskie's crossing. As part of the honour of being chosen as May Queen she was asked to plant the tree at May Day celebrations.
Other seedlings were planted at the same time throughout the British Commonwealth to mark the coronation of King George VI. Several were planted in B.C. and according to Peter Johnson, a Surrey curator-archivist of heritage collections, they all originated from the Windsor Great Park, at the Royal Windsor Castle in England. The former Brackendale School has long since gone and Cal Hartnell and his wife Kim, have lived and operated their dog care business on the property where the tree is found, since 1998. Hartnell said the district approached them when they first bought the property and they were asked to protect the tree. He said they were happy to preserve it because they believed the tree was significant to Squamish's history.
"To me it's important," said Hartnell. "This is the type of thing in town that needs to be respected."However, since purchasing and moving his house to the location, he has become concerned with the size and stability of the large Birch.
"My concern is if we get a silver thaw and ice builds up on the limbs and they could break off," he said. "It is something that needs to be dealt with and it would be better if [the district] did it. I think it is important for the tree's survival."
Hartnell is reluctant to prune the tree himself because he doesn't want to damage it.
Fenton has a vague recollection of the day she planted the tree but has identified the other man in a picture of the occasion as Reverend Rimmer and two of the girls in the back of the photo as Betty Rae and Donna Olsen.
"I can only remember what the picture tells me," she said. "I think the dress I am wearing was a hand-me-down from my cousin."
However Fenton believes the tree should be protected and looked after "because of the year it was planted and the fact they were put all over the province."
Doug Fenton, Ruth's husband, also agreed.
"We don't have much recorded history in Squamish and this is a part of it and the fact it's still standing," he said. Doug has lived in Squamish with Ruth since 1948 (Ruth came to Squamish in 1930) and said he has seen a lot of changes since coming to town on a dirt road from Vancouver. He said it would be beneficial to have some of those changes recorded.
Bianca Peters of the Squamish Historical Society said the Royal Oak on Government Road is the type of thing her organization would like to identify and protect.
"We want to be an advocates of things like buildings and trees, that can't speak for themselves," she said. "Something planted in 1937 is definitely worth protecting."
The Squamish Historical Society is still in its formation stages, with their next meeting to be held May 4. Questions about the society can be directed at Peters by email at .