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'Beloved' black walnut tree behind Molly’s Reach to be removed

'I am devastated that this tree has to be removed,' Mayor Silas White says as town shares news of the heritage tree's scheduled fall expiry because of safety concerns.
Early morning light hits Molly's Reach and the iconic black walnut behind it. The tree will fall this autumn, the town has announced.

A “beloved” black walnut tree, located behind Molly’s Reach will be taken down for safety reasons this fall.

The news came in a May 16 press release from the Town of Gibsons. A tree-cutting permit has been issued for its removal, town communications coordinator Bronwyn Kent advised Coast Reporter via email.

As the loss of the tree may be upsetting for many residents, the Town provided advance notification and invites people to say their goodbyes, share their photos and stories, and commemorate the tree in any way they wish to, said the press release. 

The owners of 643 and 647 School Road, where the tree is located, will be in charge of the removal and a notice will be posted on the local government’s website prior to that happening.

The town’s statement detailed that the tree was assessed by two certified arborists who both recommended that it be removed due to its condition, site conditions and the extreme target potential were it to fall. The condition of the tree is such that the structural integrity has been greatly compromised by root damage, extensive rot, and previous topping, resulting in questionable branch attachments. Additionally, adjacent concrete retaining walls are being encroached on by the large trunk. It has also outgrown its increasingly dense environment and is a threat to its surroundings.

“I am devastated that this tree has to be removed,” Mayor Silas White said in the release. “It is a natural landmark that many of us feel deeply connected to. In hopes that we could find a way to preserve the tree, council requested that staff get a second arborist’s opinion – but unfortunately, the second arborist also confirmed the tree is unsafe. It will come down one way or another, and we need to allow the property owner to remove it safely, so no harm comes to anyone or anything.”

The tree is listed as a heritage tree in the town’s Heritage Inventory and Heritage Register, was planted by George Gibsons Jr., and it is said that early settlers used the oil from the walnut husks to stain their wooden gun stocks. Over the last century, the tree has been a fixture in Lower Gibsons, serving as a visual backdrop to the town, appearing in countless photographs, and serving as home to numerous small creatures.

In the release, the town director of infrastructure Trevor Rutley stated, “While preservation of the tree would be ideal, we must put the safety of our community first. Since it’s been deemed unsafe, unfortunately, we have no choice but to allow it to be removed.”