Surrey is planning to cut down a 70-year-old heritage tree in South Surrey to make way for road work, causing angst among residents who say its demise could be avoided.
The tree has interesting roots. In 1939, England sent Royal Oak seedlings to all of its Commonwealth countries to commemorate the coronation of King George VI. The seedlings came from Windsor Great Park, a 5,000-acre park on the border of Surrey, England.
Several of the seedlings were planted along the Pacific Highway, from the Pattullo Bridge to the U.S. border. The highway was renamed the King George Highway after a royal visit in 1939. (It was renamed King George Boulevard in 2010).
One of the now 50-foot trees near 32 Avenue and 152 Street is slated for possible removal if the city can’t work around it during road improvements.
A former member of the city’s Heritage Advisory Commission (HAC) says that could be avoided by siting the road around the tree.
Jim Foulkes sat on the HAC for years and says the Royal Oaks south of the Nicomekl River on King George Boulevard have a special place in Surrey’s history, and unfortunately many have been lost.
“The ones that are left are between the Nicomekl River Bridge and 8 Avenue,” Foulkes says.
He was told by an engineering staff member that planners were unaware of the heritage status of the trees and that the road alignment has already been picked.
He’s also been told that it will cost $80,000 to move the tree and that there is fiber optic cable underneath, making it even more expensive to move.
The city’s engineering staff will be submitting a report to the HAC on March 28 discussing what a tree move would cost and estimating the chances of the tree’s survival if it is relocated.
City documents stress the importance of the Royal Oaks.
“Creating a visual and symbolic break, the trees have become an important part of the landscape along King George Highway, from the Nicomekl River to 8 Avenue,” City of Surrey Heritage Planning files state. “The protection and maintenance of these trees also demonstrates the commitment of the City of Surrey in recognizing and preserving its natural heritage.”