Range of opinions on dealing with problem tree

Westerly News Eagle Aerie Gallery CEO Jennifer Steven wants a cedar tree removed from Campbell Street but Tofino’s municipal council is hesitant to cede the Cedar.

The tree stands on district property in front of the Eagle Aerie Gallery on the other side of the sidewalk.

In a letter reviewed by council during last week’s regular meeting, Steven said she spoke out against the tree during a districthosted Campbell Street open house last year and "voiced the desire to have the tree removed."

Steven said the tree is damaging the gallery’s storefront and should be removed or at least pulled back from the building.

"This house front is a piece of art carved and painted by Roy Henry Vickers and Henry Nola," she said through the letter. "I am looking to take steps to preserve the front of the building so it lasts as a legacy in our community for as long as it can."

She added the tree’s roots could potentially be damaging the 28 year-old gallery’s foundation as well as the sidewalk.

"Please consider the damage the tree is creating for our building and the art that showcases Roy’s family crest on the house front," she said.

Tofino’s manager of RMI services April Froment said the tree would be assessed during the upcoming Campbell Street phase-two construction project.

The proposed construction contract contains a provision that the area around the tree will be hand dug in order to preserve the roots and while this is taking place the roots will be assessed to determine the tree’s health-status. Froment suggested removing the tree could be an unpopular move citing discussions from the 2013 open house.

"It was a bit of a hot topic; the majority of folks that gave input wished that the tree would stay," Froment said.

Coun. Duncan McMaster asked if the district plans to bring in a professional arborist during the construction project and Froment responded that an arborist would only be brought in if required.

Unsatisfied with this, McMaster made a motion, that was unanimously approved, to bring in a professional arborist to examine the health of the tree and if anything can be done to prevent further damage to the building without knocking it down.

"I don’t want to see the thing go but I think we need to look into what we can do to prevent damage to the building," McMaster said.

Coun. Dorothy Baert stressed that the arborist should focus on ways to retain the tree while keeping the gallery safe.

"There’s a very strong sentiment that the tree should be there," Baert said.

Coun. Cathy Thicke suggested a tree near Tofino’s Post Office is putting the area’s sidewalk in "a state of upheaval" and asked whether it could be looked at as well.

"I’m not trying to muddy the waters I’m just saying could it be more than one tree is looked at, at the same time," she asked.

Froment responded that the cedar on Campbell Street will be assessed during the upcoming construction whereas there are no plans to dig up the Post Office area.