It was a magnificent black walnut tree that flourished at the north end of Daniel Ave. Its absence creates a hole in the sky.
Until last week, buy this sister tree to bur oaks throughout Champlain Park offered living shade to students at St. George School on Keyworth Ave.
The tree grew on school property–something that was only determined when the owner of an adjacent property applied for a permit to cut the tree so she could tear down an existing home to build a new one. The City of Ottawa’s Urban Tree Conservation By-law protected the black walnut because it met the definition of “distinctive” by being more than 50 cm in diameter.
The fence dividing the two properties should have been built to enclose the tree on school board property. But for at least 90 years, more about the tree had flourished where a nut once sprouted. It was a healthy, mature tree that produced an abundant harvest of walnuts each year. Black walnuts can live up to 250 years.
On October 4, the school board received a phone call advising it that the tree was now “destabilized.” Its roots had been cut away during excavation for the new house. The caller reported that the tree posed a danger to the kindergarten students whose enclosed playground sat under the walnut’s expansive canopy.
The school board agreed that the once-friendly tree was now a problem. It felt forced to act quickly, and hired a contractor to cut the tree down. Did this make the school board happy? NO! The school board is planning to approach the property owner to recoup some or all of the $3,000 to $4,000 it spent to demolish the tree.
As well, the city’s Forestry department may levy a fine against the property owner for damaging what she knew was a distinctive tree on private property. The fines set out in the by-law range from a minimum of $500 to a maximum of $100,000.
Nowadays, kindergarten students at St. George School line up against the fence to view the ugly stump that has replaced a graceful trunk. They have lost a beautiful tree–the largest of three that once grew in their special playground.