Friday, June 10, 2005


A single English Oak tree stands in front of the ‘old’ Errington Elementary School on Grafton Avenue. Other trees and scrubs grow without the presence of the children they were meant to keep company. I attended all the grades at that school and remember gathering leaves from those trees for art collages. I played around those trees and climbed them after school was out. I even remember the planting of several of those trees because they are significant to many in the community as a reminder of those who have passed on. Thousands of children have similar memories of those trees.

Now that the Navy Cadets of Canada have bought the ‘old’ school property, there is some hope that the trees planted by the community will be allowed to grow and prospers. After all one of these trees is of great historical significance to Canada as well as the community of Errington.

The English Oak tree is of particular historical significance since it was given to the Province of British Columbia by the King of England George VI, upon his coronation in 1936 along with one tree for each of the other 10 provinces in Canada. That Oak tree was planted in Errington by a 12 year old Earl Ware in the spring of 1937.

The very nature of trees is that they can outlive the people that planted them. In fact there are trees growing on Vancouver Island that pre-date even our own calendar. Trees have been used for centuries to mark special occasions, people, and historic events. However, trees remain silent and over time the memories they were meant to preserve fade into the past.

People living in Errington when the school was first built may have thought that the publicly owned land would remain a center piece of the community. A plaque should be established by the tree to remind people why it was planted.

Henry VIII cut down the Oak forests of England to build the man-of-war fleet that expanded the British Empire to all corners of the globe. Today a single oak tree, seeded from the remains of that decimated forest, stands tall before what will become headquarters for navel cadets in this community.

Today the Errington Cedar Mill dominates the center of the community of Errington. The surrounding drinking wells have been poisoned and water runs black in the ditches. The noise of the saws, chippers, debarker, loaders, and trucks can be heard everywhere in Errington from 6 am until late into the night and often on week-ends. Many of the Yellow Cedar logs being cut in Errington today are coming from the Upper Walbran Valley, Crown Land designated as a Special Management Zone.

This spring I hiked through the Alpine forest just outside the Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park and looked at those same Yellow Cedar trees. The specific type of ancient rainforest that they live in is a red-listed plant community on Vancouver Island. Extremely steep slopes rise up to a long alpine ridge complete with small lakes and ponds. Some of those trees were over 1000 years old and seeded before the first crusade. Standing beside the stump and log of an ancient yellow cedar tree with growth rings so tight that they can only be distinguished by polishing the wood and using a magnifying glass to count them, we estimate that a 3 foot wide stump is all that remains of an 800 year old Chamaecyparis nootkatensis.

I have been hiking and filming in the ancient rainforests of Vancouver Island for many years and invite you to join me at the Errington Community Hall for a ‘back by popular demand’ screening of my half hour film “THE ART OF RAINFORESTS” Friday June 17 and Saturday June 18 at 8 pm.