Introduced in 2018 by Comox Valley Nature (CVN), this event encourages Comox Valley residents to pay attention to the trees that surround us.
CVN’s mission statement is “to know nature and keep it worth knowing,” and it was a CVN member, Cathy Storey, who first suggested the contest. Storey was an active and impassioned CVN member who inspired others with her enthusiasm and passion for the many gifts trees give us. She has since passed away, but the event continues to honour her spirit.
The first part of the contest is the nomination period. From mid-January through mid-March, local tree lovers submit their selections based on a tree’s historical importance, aesthetic appeal, or special significance.
Participating in the contest helps foster a stronger connection with nature: when you start looking up, it’s impossible not to appreciate our arboreal neighbours.
“Not only are trees essential for life, but as the longest living species on earth, they give us a link between the past, present, and future,” notes Fred Newhouse, one of the event organizers.
Previous nominees and winners have won for a variety of reasons.The 2020 TOTY, nominated by Judith Walker, was a yellow cedar growing at the foot of Greig Avenue in Royston. This tree was planted by Ted and Mary Greig, who ran the Royston Nursery from 1929 to 1966, in honour of their son, Jim, when he enlisted in World War II. This tree could have become a living symbol of sorrow and remembrance, but instead it became an enduring symbol of celebration: Jim survived the war.
We are fortunate to have many impressive Garry oaks in fields, cemeteries, and along roadsides throughout the Valley. Oaks have long been a symbol of perseverance, endurance, and continuity; they cause us to pause and reflect on the long history of this place and its people.
In 2022, two sisters, Angela Dawson and Gillian Little, nominated two Garry oak “sisters” located in the Sandwick cemetery. In researching their family history, they had discovered that a distant cousin was buried there; their search revealed the gravestone, as well as these two Garry oaks. To the nominators, “these two trees signify the love, caring, and appreciation we need to extend to one another, to our neighbourhood, our people, and our planet.”
Nominations frequently highlight our role as stewards and protectors of these immobile beings, especially during this period of extensive development in the Comox Valley. Comox resident Mel McLachlan’s nomination for the 2021 Tree of the Year was a Douglas fir on an Anderton Road property slated for development. For McLachlan, it represented all the disappearing old trees disappearing from his community. The Town of Comox recognized the value of retaining this tree, and it is currently protected as development takes place around it.
The 2021 TOTY was a distinctive western yew in Cumberland. It was nominated by Ted Grainger due to its gnarled and twisted shape, suggesting a life of struggle and tenacity, and, nonetheless, its beauty. The fact that we can visit the tree today demonstrates the importance of efforts to protect and preserve threatened forests, and of organizations such as the Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS).
Another 2021 nominee was a massive red cedar along Perseverance Creek, nominated by Delwyn Marcoux to help raise awareness and funds for CCFS’ Project Perseverance. This effort was ultimately successful, and the purchase was finalized in December 2022, ensuring the protection of this western red cedar and the forest ecosystem in which it thrives.
Which tree will be named the 2023 TOTY? Make your voice heard! Grab your bike or walking shoes, download the route maps from our website, and tour the valley to find your favourite.
And for the rest of the year, while you’re out for a walk, hike, or bike ride, keep your eyes on the trees so you can nominate next year’s contenders.
Visit www.cvnature.ca/treeoftheyear for this year’s nominees’ photographs, locations, and cycling route maps, available April 1. Vote online from April 1 to May 31