An ancient western red cedar on Gabriola Island is in danger of being trampled to death by visitors whose feet have compacted the soil around its roots.

Gabriola Island tree damaged by its popularity

NANAIMO – Western red cedar possibly oldest on Gabriola Island and in danger from foot traffic at roots.

An ancient giant western red cedar on Gabriola Island is a victim of its own popularity.

The tree, located in the Elder Cedar (S’ul-hween X’pey) Nature Reserve, home to one of the island’s last stands of old-growth forest, gets a lot of visitors who like to get up close to touch it and have their photos taken with it. All those visitations over the years have compacted the soil around the tree’s roots making it difficult for water and oxygen to permeate the soil.

“It physically damages the roots as well, which leads to a weakening of the tree and without protection right now the tree likely won’t survive as long as it could,” said Rob Gratton, Islands Trust Fund spokesman.

Gratton said the tree’s age is estimated at several hundred years, but no core sample has ever been taken, so the cedar’s exact age is unknown.

“We do know it’s certainly one of, if not the oldest, trees on the island,” Gratton said.

To protect the tree, the Islands Trust Fund, Gabriola Land and Trails Trust and Nanaimo and Area Land Trust want to get the word out that all those friendly visits could kill it. The groups also consulted with an arborist to determine the best methods to protect and restore the health of the tree and have since had a low fence built around the tree to keep visitors back from its base and a sign explaining how foot traffic can harm trees.

Fences and boardwalks protecting tree roots and soil are used in various Vancouver Island urban and wilderness parks to protect tree roots and other vegetation in sensitive areas.

“At this stage they’re going to be bringing in some wood mulch to try to start rehabilitating the soil and hopefully with less foot traffic, nature will take its course and it will rehabilitate itself,” Gratton said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo Airport’s $14-million expanded terminal officially opens

Departure lounge, security and baggage areas improved

Nanaimo athletes shine at B.C. Winter Games

Youths from Nanaimo win 19 of Vancouver Island team’s 44 medals

Officials say no drought worries with below-normal snowpack

Snow pillow nearest to Nanaimo at 69 per cent of normal levels, says B.C. government official

Affordable apartments planned for Nanaimo’s Brechin Hill neighbourhood

Proposed development would be near Terminal Park plaza and B.C. Ferries’ Departure Bay terminal

Storm score a Game 2 win against Buccaneers

VIJHL playoff series between Nanaimo and Campbell River tied 1-1

Beefs & Bouquets, Feb. 27

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail

Toddler killed in Squamish grocery store parking lot

Child’s mother taken to hospital but her condition is not known

Francophone festivities in Nanaimo this weekend

French Canadian culture and cuisine highlight Maple Sugar Festival du Sucre d’Érable

Two law enforcement trucks ‘deliberately’ set on fire in northern B.C., RCMP say

Police say they have video evidence of a person in the area of the truck fires

B.C. mother, daughter return home after coronavirus quarantine in Asia

Jensine Morabito and her daughter were on Holland America’s Westerdam but did not catch the virus

Leap Year means we get an extra day in February, so how are you spending it?

People online have a number of suggestions and plans on how they will be spending Saturday

Greta sticker that drew outrage in Alberta not child pornography: RCMP

X-Site Energy Services has denied having anything to do with the stickers

Bald eagle hit by train in northern B.C. has a chance of survival

The raptor has been taken to OWL in the Lower Mainland for recovery

Most Read