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Squamish resident hopes to save prominent downtown tree

The mature tree has long been a fixture by The Cedars seniors' home, which will soon be demolished; Polygon Homes' president says company is looking at ways to preserve the tree.

A local is hoping that a prominent tree that has stood by a soon-to-be-demolished seniors' home can be preserved.

Margaret King, who owns a landscape business, hung a sign on what she has identified as a decades-old acer platanoides 'Crimson King', which is a variety of Norway Maple.

The tree is on the property of The Manor and The Cedars, which are two seniors' homes slated for demolition. The buildings will be destroyed to make way for a residential development by Polygon Homes. 

The developer recently completed building the new Westwinds seniors' home. In exchange for the creation of that facility, the company acquired the land where The Manor and The Cedars sit to develop as it sees fit.

King, who has also worked in horticulture, said the 50-to-70-year-old tree is not a rare species, but its maturity makes it a rarity in the downtown area. 

To display her hope that the maple will be saved, she hung a sign around its trunk, which reads, 'Save Me.'

"I've lived in downtown Squamish for quite a long time now — about 25 years," said King. "And I've always admired that tree. I walked by it a lot. I've driven by it a lot. You know, it adds something to the neighbourhood. And it's always been nice to see that it's been able to get to a mature size."

She also added that trees like that one are precious because of the onset of climate change.

"Planting trees and preserving the trees we have, it's the easy thing to do," King added. "If we can't even do that, it doesn't bode well for the future."

Polygon Homes' president and CEO, Neil Chrystal, said that the company is looking at ways to preserve the tree.

This will first involve an assessment of the situation.

"Obviously, if we can keep [trees] on the perimeter of the site, we find that adds value to any site that we do," said Chrystal. "Unfortunately, on this site, in particular, it's going to be the home of an apartment, which requires a parkade. So anything in off the sidewalk too far, well, it will likely have to come out."

In that case, he said, the company will probably have to look at whether it's possible to relocate the tree.

"We'll chat with arborists, try to assess the feasibility of transplants, probably on a different site," he said.

At this point, though, it's too early to tell what the course of action will be, Chrystal said.

King, however, said that relocation for a tree that size will likely be impossible.

"You definitely can't move it," said King. "That would be a ridiculous thing to do. You'd never get a Vermeer tree spade that big, and it would probably die. It's way too mature to be moved. I mean, that's just a totally impractical solution. But, you know, we have to start protecting things like this."

King said that the design of the upcoming residential facility incorporates open public space, and the tree could be a part of that feature.

"If they were going to have a public open space and entrance there, why not incorporate the tree into the design?" said King. "What a wonderful place to sit in the shade, or have it at your entry."

She also wondered if the District of Squamish had any rules or regulations that would prevent the tree from getting cut down.

In response, the District issued The Squamish Chief a written statement.

"The Tree Management Bylaw manages the removal of trees by outlining conditions by which a permit will be required to remove a tree, and also outlines the requirement to maintain a minimum tree density on developable properties — so trees removed must be replaced," wrote spokesperson Christina Moore.

"A development permit application for this property will go through the standard design and planning processes which include landscaping recommendations and tree density requirements. We advise to keep an eye on our Development Showcase to view the application once it has been posted for application details." 

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