Around the year 1730, when the Mississauga First Nation still dominated the land and the first foreign colonists started trickling in, a mighty tree sprouted in a spot that would become Bronte Road.
More than 250 years later, our love of automobiles is threatening this healthy Great White Oak (pictured above), and many people aren’t too happy about plans to kill it to facilitate the widening of Bronte Road. After community outcry earlier this year, the Regional Municipality of Halton developed a plan to widen the road while leaving the tree intact, but they won’t pay the $343,000 in increased cost. The tree was scheduled to get the axe back on June 21, but the community has now been charged with raising the money to save the tree by December 15.
The Woodlands Oak-Tree Preservation Committee believes (perhaps a little optimistically) that it can raise enough money over the next few weeks to save the oak. So far, however, it has only collected $46,794 ($93,588 has been pledged). That’s $296,206 to go. Hmm. Any corporate sponsors out there that want to reduce their karmic debt?
Undisturbed Great White Oaks can live up to a mind-boggling 600 years old. Under current environmental circumstances, some experts believe this tree only has between 15-25 good years left, though a similar oak nearby is estimated at 350 years-old. The main danger to the oak — aside from the chainsaws — is salt spray from winter roads and any future paving near the root system. More than 95% of tree root systems exist within 100 cm of the surface, making them particularly vulnerable to construction and pollution runoff.
This threatened tree just outside of Halton Regional Headquarters was recognized by the Province of Ontario in 1972 when an agreement was signed with the previous property owner to keep the tree safe from planned hydro and sewer developments. The site of Halton Regional Headquarters was once a huge woodlot where oaks were harvested to build ships. It later became a training track for thoroughbred racehorses, but burned to the ground in August, 1983.
The campaign is not without celebrity support. Singer, environmental activist and Burlington native Sarah Harmer performed yesterday in the auditorium of the Halton Regional Building to raise awareness and money for the campaign. Harmer co-founded the group Protecting Escarpment Rural Land (PERL) last year when a gravel development threatened some Niagara escarpment wilderness.
Also offering support is the Ontario Urban Forest Council, an organization that is trying to document “heritage trees” that can be identified and potentially protected as heritage buildings are (or at least, supposed to be). A heritage tree is identified as one being of notable “size, form, shape, beauty, age, colour, variety, genetic constitution or other distinctive features.” (Dr. Paul Aird, Department of Forestry, University of Toronto).
Rooted across the road from Bronte Creek Provincial Park and boasting a, impressive canopy of about 25 metres-across, Torontoist believes that the tree is worth saving but we’re not optimistic that sufficient funds can be raised without a corporate sponsor or massive private donation. Who’s willing to step up to the plate?
Donations to the Community Save The Tree Campaign can be done via credit card, a donation form [PDF], or by calling Access Halton at 905-825-6000 or toll-free at 1-866-442-5866 (tax receipts will be issued for donations over $25).