Tree Worker vs. Tree Hugger vs. Property Owner

It is a common story. A tree hugger wanted to save a tree. The property owner hired a contractor to remove the tree. The situation escalated. The tree hugger got in his car and ran over the foot of the contractor’s son. There are several arboriculture issues that can be explored in this recent incident. Frequent ISAO contributor Pat Kerr provides an analysis.

First, the Windsor Star carried the story July 21, 2012, describing the contractor as a “chain saw mercenary” who arrived at an “uncivilized hour” Saturday morning. 

My desktop dictionary describes mercenary as “a person primarily concerned with making money at the expense of ethics.” Wikipedia defines mercenary as “a person who takes part in an armed conflict, who is not a national or a party to the conflict, and is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain.” 

We must agree, in part, with Wiki’s definition. Arborists are not involved in the “conflict” – they are hired or paid to perform a service. However, was the contractor aware this was an “ARMED” conflict? For their own personal protection, should arborists ask before they are contracted to perform a service if there is a conflict? Some fence installers routinely inquire about property line disputes. 

The victim responded to a telephone interview but asked not to be quoted as the legal issues are continuing. He is willing to speak about the situation after the lawyers are finished. (FYI: He is doing well.)

Secondly, was the hour “uncivilized?” At the time of writing, the Windsor police, as impartial witnesses to the event, have not responded to calls to confirm the details of the incident. However, we all know that arboriculture is not a 9 to 5 Monday to Friday occupation. 

The Windsor Star’s twist and use of negative descriptive words implies the victim, the employee who was run over and landed in emergency with an injured foot, was evil and to blame for the incident while the “cathedral-like canopy” and “miracle that this towering beauty” of a tree should be saved. It was reported in the National Post that the car driver was charged with careless driving and assault with a weapon. 

The second issue pertains to another news report indicating that the sycamore tree in question was alive during the War of 1812. Drew Dilkens, Councillor for the City of Windsor, said in an email, “There have been conflicting reports on the age of the tree. I've heard anywhere between 100 and 200 years old. The previous property owner stated that it was a mature tree when he grew up. He is now retired and in his late ‘60s. The city forester claims it is 100-150 years old.” In the township report, posted on the Internet, it says the city forester estimated the tree’s age as approximately 100.

Finally, how is the city responding? Dilkens stated: “We do not have a tree bylaw in Windsor. And, I don't think we need to establish a bylaw that manages every tree cutting issue in the city. I think it would be best for us to consider enacting some protection under the Heritage Act that allows us to protect certain trees that have been identified as 'heritage' quality. I'm told by our forester that there would only be 6-7 trees in all of Windsor that he thinks would qualify for such designation. I certainly don't want to move to a system where a property owner needs approval from the city to trim or cut every tree.”

Dilkens continued, “This is a classic example of the conflict between private property owners and concerned neighbours. The owner was fully within his legal rights to cut down the tree. If nothing else, the publicity surrounding this issue has helped to bring out a potential buyer… someone who appreciates the tree and wants to purchase part of the lot partly because the tree is there. There is no doubt that this tree enhances the value of the lot.”

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