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Want to See a Big Tree Up Close and Alive (Instead of on a Truck Bed)?

ARTIFACT: How to visit one of BC’s ‘Champions.’

andrea bennett 28 May

andrea bennett is a Tyee senior editor and the author of Like a Boy but Not a Boy (Arsenal Pulp), a CBC Books’ pick for the top Canadian non-fiction of the year and one of Autostraddle’s best queer books of 2020.

Earlier this week, a giant tree being trucked on one of Vancouver Island's major highways went viral when Nanaimo resident Lorna Beecroft snapped a quick pic to share with Facebook friends.

If the photo stunned and saddened you, you’re not alone. If it made you curious about the giant trees that may be lurking — alive — in your backyard, you’re in luck.

The University of British Columbia faculty of forestry is home to the BC BigTree Registry, which was initiated in the 1980s by Randy Stoltmann, and eventually made its way to UBC in 2010.

The registry tracks the largest trees for each native species in B.C. Anyone can nominate a big tree, and some species — including mountain alder, balsam poplar and Sitka willow — are still awaiting their first big tree nomination.

The BC BigTree Registry also has a champion list, detailing the largest specimen nominated from each species.

Five of these champions — Sitka alder, scoulers willow, bigleaf maple, red alder, grand fir — are listed in Vancouver, and four — Pacific yew, mountain hemlock, western hemlock and bitter cherry — are listed in North Van.

Though not all nine champions in Vancouver and North Vancouver are visitable, many are, and the registry often includes their latitude and longitude.

Let’s take the bigleaf maple, the largest of its kind in Canada, as an example. The BigTree registry helpfully lists its location, Stanley Park, and co-ordinates, 49.304988, -123.152831. Plug those into Google Maps, and you’ll be directed to a spot near Third Beach, midway between Rawlings Trail and Meadow Trail.

Follow a little well-worn but unmarked path about 30 or 40 metres east from Rawlings Trail to get to the impressively large, two-trunked specimen, which was measured at 3.41 metres in diameter and 29 metres in height by Stoltmann in 1992.

While you’re in Stanley Park, you can visit a Champion red alder at Third Beach, and an impressive (if not quite Champion) western red cedar just east of the Teahouse on Lover’s Walk.

To visit the Champion bitter cherry, which was measured at 0.86 metres in diameter in 2000, and is accessible by transit and located right next to a sidewalk, take your notes from Amanda Lewis, who headed to North Van with her copy of David Tracey’s Vancouver Tree Book.

If you visit one of these big trees, say hello for us — and take caution to watch where you step.

“The best way to show your love and respect for these venerable giants is to get to know and appreciate them, but to also keep off the sensitive soils home to their roots,” writes BC BigTree committee chair Ira Sutherland by email. “Give them a wide distance, such as 10 metres.”

“While old trees elsewhere in B.C. are vulnerable to being cut down in a logging operation,” Sutherland adds, “the giants in and around Vancouver are vulnerable to soil compaction and we all must do our part to ensure they live for centuries more.”

Add to the collection of B.C.’s big tree knowledge — like new photos and access information — by contacting the BigTree registry.

And to learn more about the recent old growth spruce whose highway journey recently went viral, check out our recent reporting here.  [Tyee]

Read more: Environment

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