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LETTER: Trees felled at former site of Holes' farm not a loss: arborist

'My first impressions as I passed through the gate were of surprise and confusion. Confusion because what I was greeted with was not a beautiful natural preserve, nor an old forest, or even the delicately landscaped sanctuary I had been told to expect. As a professional arborist and passionate nature enthusiast, what I saw was more or less a neglected parking lot.'
letter-sta

Re: "Shame to see current site of former Hole farm," Letters, April 6.

I recently read Elizabeth D. Pawluk's letter regarding the development of the former Holes greenhouse area that left me feeling somewhat distressed, but not for the reasons you may expect.

I grew up just up the hill from the Holes greenhouse. My family still calls the area home. I remember browsing through the greenhouses with my mom before I could see over the shelves and hearing the stories of the great Lois Hole and her pioneering work with plants and preservation. Though I’ve long since moved from the area, her books are still on my shelf, and her impact on the community is still fresh in my memory.

Yet, in a strange twist of fate, I’m also a proprietor of Edmonton Arborist, the company contracted to remove the remaining trees from that very land. When I was first contacted about this project my immediate thoughts were of loss. Loss of beauty, history, memories. Lois Hole and her efforts being no small part in influencing my career choice, learning of the destruction of this final sliver of her legacy troubled me, however, passing on the opportunity to be part of a project so important to the community I still consider home was, of course, not an option. So, I took the meeting to view the site.

My first impressions as I passed through the gate were of surprise and confusion. Confusion because what I was greeted with was not a beautiful natural preserve, nor an old forest, or even the delicately landscaped sanctuary I had been told to expect. As a professional arborist and passionate nature enthusiast, what I saw was more or less a neglected parking lot. 

Though an aerial view of the site may have shown some dense canopies (for now), this was no longer what it once was. There are a few things to note about the trees that were removed from this site.

1. This was not a “treed” area. Consisting primarily of two rows of mature trees lining a road, one fairly sparse wind break, and a peninsula from the ravine with about three old-growth poplars; the rest of the area was designated for garden space, three large homes, a basketball court, and a sod field. Hardly the lush forest I expected.

2. The vast majority of these trees were at the end of their life cycle. Excepting for the approximately 18 elms which notoriously survive for many centuries, the rest of the trees were box elder (Manitoba maple), poplar, and willow, all of which were well pushing there 40- to 60-year life expectancy. Some of the old-growth poplars were so rotten through the base we had to utilize a crane to safely fell them.

3. Special provisions were put in place to preserve Lois's orchard. The still-standing orchard trees have been fenced off, and if found to be in good health have been found new homes in suitable areas to live out their remaining years.

Although the project was still somewhat bittersweet for me, I feel it's important for people to have an accurate and clear measure of what was actually lost here, so they can weigh it fairly against what the community has to gain.

Evan Breda, owner, Edmonton Arborist