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Surrey Heritage commission approves tree removal

Royal Oak near 32 Avenue and King George Boulevard was planted in 1939 in commemoration of King George VI's coronation.
Jim Foulkes is trying to save a heritage royal oak tree on King George Boulevard.

A 70-year-old heritage tree in Surrey is one step closer to the saw's blade.

On Wednesday, Surrey's Heritage Advisory Commission endorsed a staff report calling the removal of a Royal Oak, planted near 32 Avenue and 152 Street in 1939 for a king's visit.

The now-15-metre (50-foot) tree stands in the way of road improvements.

Reasons cited in the report for recommending its removal include the costly task of moving the tree for $100,000, which would only give it a 50-per-cent chance of survival. Complicating matters is a large fiber optic cable, connecting Vancouver with Seattle, is situated near the root ball.

The real fuss over the existing tree, however, goes back to its back to its historical roots.

Back in 1939, in celebration of the coronation of King George VI, England sent Royal Oak seedlings to all Commonwealth countries, including Canada.

Many arrived in Surrey, and they were planted along the newly renamed King George Highway.

The tree in question is one of them.

Instead of moving the Royal Oak, staff are planning to plant a large tree (16 centimetres wide at breast height) of the same species nearby.

In addition, Surrey parks' staff have been collecting acorns from the original trees and plan to plant 50 Royal Oak seedlings along King George Boulevard and another 50 throughout the city.

The wood from the existing tree will be used to create commemorative sign boards and benches.

Jim Foulkes, a former member of Surrey's Heritage Advisory Commission, said Friday the staff plan for replacements isn't good enough.

Foulkes, also a director of the Surrey Historical Society, notes that the trees won't be planted in an evenly spaced line like they were in 1939.

"It means nothing to me," Foulkes said.

He believes the road could be realigned around the existing tree for a few thousand dollars.

The plan to remove the tree was approved by the Heritage Advisory Commission on Wednesday night, and will now go to city council for consideration.

Foulkes is planning to make a presentation to council as soon as today (March 30), pitching his plan for a road realignment.