Garry Oak Saved On Sooke Waterfront

This Garry Oak at Mariner's Village will be saved
 to form a centerpiece of the development
Since the two magnificent Douglas-fir trees in central Sooke were unceremoniously laid low hundreds of years before their time, I have been looking at a different tree-scape from my home across Sooke Harbour.

One of the trees that has been making its presence known is equal in stature to the firs cut only two blocks away. The tree is a magnificent Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) in the Mariner's Village waterfront development.

The grandparent oak is a dominant feature on the property, easily competing with the the new 4 and 6-story structures next to it. It is multi-trunked so it could be that a small, tightly packed grove of trees has cooperated to form one large canopy.

Not only is the tree at least 60 feet in height, but its massive canopy is wider than the tree is tall. From my vantage point at home the oak, when fully leafed out, hides a good part of the phase 1 buildings behind its crinkly-lobed, dark green canopy.

Garry Oak ecosystems are a threatened habitat on Vancouver Island, and these beautiful trees are not common as far west as Sooke. Garry oaks can live up to 500 years, and the one in question is decades old.

Mariner's Village has only just completed the first phase of the development, so I wondered if Sooke was going to lose another of its significant heritage trees as the project progressed.

The large Garry oak from across Sooke Harbour
I contacted Jason van der Valk of Mariner's Village to see if there was a chance that the oak would be saved. His response was more than I could hope for, and quite a surprise. Good news stories concerning development and heritage trees in Sooke are rare.

"From the very beginning with the creation of the rendering, blueprints and concepts, the large Garry Oak Tree has always been forefront, and was the hub of the starting point for the development. Everything will be centered around that."

Jason also explained that the development team has contacted professionals for advice on how to proceed in a way that will not impact the health of the tree as the next phases are built. Garry oaks are notoriously sensitive to surrounding development, and often do not live.

The developers of Mariner's Village are uncharacteristically planning for this tree's survival, and would like to see it thrive for years to come for the enjoyment of of all.

VIBT salutes the tree-friendly approach being taken in this project, and we hope that this heritage Garry oak survives to become a central feature of the new development.

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