Neighbours prepare to fight for old tree

Construction project worries Dallas Road residents

Susan Enefer has tied a yellow ribbon around the threatened tree.

Susan Enefer has tied a yellow ribbon around the threatened tree.

Construction project worries Dallas Road residents

One of the last original trees in a Dallas Road neighbourhood is stirring up controversy as an oncoming construction project could decide its fate.

The tree, planted at least 80 years ago along the Ogden Point strip of lower Dallas Road, is nestled on the boulevard of city property. Yet over the last eight decades, weather, health and construction projects have turned what used to be a tree-lined area into the sparser street residents and tourists know today. Now, community members are asking for the remaining arbor to be kept safe against the newest demolition project.

“It seems like everything has happened very quickly — one day people were living in the property beside me, then the next there was a notice alerting the neighbourhood the house was going to be torn down,” says Susan Enefer, who lives beside the construction project and was one of the first to draw attention to the fate of the tree. “I’m all for development, but we’ve seen these trees disappear in the past, and it’s such a lovely old thing — I just want to know it’s going to be OK.”

Don Mann Excavating Ltd, the construction company now in possession of the property, sent out notices to residents informing them of a public forum to be held on the site at 408 Dallas Road, set for April 4 at 5 p.m. The discussion will answer all questions about the upcoming project, which will see the old heritage building formerly known as “Marine Court” be replaced with a proposed townhouse development.

Enefer contacted the company early on about the tree, and says the staff members she spoke with were helpful and open throughout the process, but adds the messages have been mixed. Since the tree is on city property, she also contacted the City of Victoria to see if an application for removal had been received. The city was not aware of any proposal at the time of Enefer’s call, but informed her of the process involved: if requested, a city surveyor would be in charge of determining whether or not the tree could survive the construction.

“While I was chatting over the phone with the excavating company, I think someone accidentally let it slip that the tree would be removed, but then someone else at the company said there were no plans for that right now, and it would depend on the health of the tree,” says Enefer. “What I would like to see, though, is people planning construction with the mindset of preserving beautiful nature that is already here, as opposed to seeing if it can survive our overhauls.”

To create awareness, Enefer laced the tree with yellow ribbons and a “Please Do Not Cut” sign. She also placed a poster with more information about the tree and construction project on her front gate. And Enefer is not alone in her efforts. Bill, an elderly neighbour who takes his daily strolls along the Dallas Road strip but didn’t want his last name used, has lived in Victoria most of his life and says he can still remember when the area was a tree-lined street. He often pauses beside the tree and Enefer’s gate for a rest, and people stop to ask him about the yellow ribbons and all the excitement.

“I don’t have a lot to say about it,” says Bill. “I just hope it stays. We’ll see who wins.”

Monday contacted the excavating company, which stated that any and all dealings on city property are “between us and the city, and between residents and the city.”

“We have the appropriate channels to go through, and so do the residents, so any matters on city property must be taken up with them,” says Monty Fitz of Don Mann Excavating. “We would not like to have this sensationalized and made a bigger deal of than it is.”

Fitz would not comment on whether or not the company has any plans to remove the tree in question, or if concerns around the tree would be discussed at the meeting on April 4.

A spokesperson for City Hall wasn’t available to comment before press deadline.

“We live in such a beautiful and such a privileged place,” says Enefer. “And I just think, why mess with it when we don’t have to?” M

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