NPA park commissioners have now rejected two community proposals to save Stanley Park’s 800-year-old Hollow Tree. And in their rush to axe the ancient conifer, NPA commissioners have not allowed the public to have their say on the latest plan put forward by the UBC Botanical Gardens.
UBC Botanical Gardens sent a letter to the Vancouver Park Board expressing interest in moving the tree to UBC where it could be displayed in its upright position. But NPA park board chair Korina Houghton dismissed the idea without taking it back to the Board where the public would have been able to comment on UBC’s plan, and where park commissioners could have voted on UBC’s offer.
"UBC Botanical Gardens wants to be heard," said COPE Park Commissioner Loretta Woodcock. "I have made a formal request that the majority NPA park commissioners formally engage the public on this new proposal so that everyone’s opinions can be heard and a decision can be made in an open manner.
"But instead the NPA commissioners have made their decision amongst themselves in the back room. Now we will never know if cutting the tree down was the right decision in light of this new information."
On March 31, the Park Board approved taking down the Hollow Tree because staff said that it had become a public safety hazard, and the only way of keeping it upright would require unsightly external steel bracing.
Since then, as well as the UBC proposal, a June 09 plan by the Hollow Tree Subcommittee of the Vancouver Heritage Commission would have retained the tree in an upright position, without the external bracing. The Hollow Tree Subcommittee even promised to launch a fundraising campaign to support the cost of maintaining the visual integrity of the tree.
A subsequent motion to reconsider the March 31 decision was defeated by the NPA majority, with COPE Commissioner Spencer Herbert and independent Commissioner Alan De Genova voting for reconsideration. Woodcock was not able to be at the meeting for the vote.
"When you have a strong community group coming forward with strong technical expertise and a pledge to raise all necessary funds, why wouldn’t the Park Board at least consider the proposal?" asked Herbert.