The "North Vancouver Tree Massacre"

Anyone who cuts down trees faces public humiliation

Nice view, shame about the trees

Chris Cheadle/Corbis

People in B.C.’s Lower Mainland take their trees seriously. When officials prepared to cut down a single hollow stump in Stanley Park a few years ago, residents raised $100,000 to reinforce it with metal. That arboreal obsession also explains the latest outrage to grip the city: someone took a chainsaw to a swath of trees in a wealthy mountainside enclave of North Vancouver because, it seems, the cedars were obstructing their view of the ocean.

Dubbed the “North Vancouver Tree Massacre” by one local TV station, and making the front pages of the local press, the incident saw roughly 35 trees felled, some of them second-growth cedars up to 60 years old. The trees were located in Capilano Park, and the cleanup costs are likely to hit $50,000 for the city. The RCMP is investigating, and the culprit, believed to be a resident in the neighbourhood where homes regularly fetch upwards of $2 million, will undoubtedly face steep fines.

That punishment may turn out to be nothing compared to the wrath of Vancouverites. In a region where homeowners are barred from removing trees from their own property, let alone public parks, those who engage in arboricide typically endure harsh public humiliation. Last year, Ratana and Arran Stephens, owners of Nature’s Path organic cereal, were pilloried when it was discovered they’d cut down several trees on their own property without a permit. Five years earlier, a 72-year-old woman who poisoned trees to get a better view of the ocean had to sell her home because of the backlash—some people threw eggs and dog feces at her house. Whoever cut down the trees in North Vancouver is likely to realize that some views, no matter how grand, just aren’t worth it.