By Nicole Trigg

Pioneer Staff

When the decision was made to fell the beautiful tree thats been the centrepiece of downtown Invermere for upwards of five decades, district council and staff expected some public backlash and indeed, they got it.

Several upset residents confronted the arborists during the trees removal on Tuesday morning, while more walked into The Pioneers office, visibly distressed at the scene taking place at Cenotaph Park. We received calls too, from grieving locals convinced the tree was needlessly being cut down.

The beloved Russian olive tree has been the focus of preservation efforts for several years now. Metal wires, bolts and screws have been installed to prevent it from splitting, but the tree has continued to crack. A recommendation for the tree to come down was made to the previous council, and the current council held onto the prize for as long as it could. Its removal coincides with renovations to Cenotaph Park and, as Green Leaf Tree Services owner Scott Kells told The Pioneer, once it was down, their concerns about the high risk crack at its base were validated.

The districts plan to preserve the wood and repurpose it so the tree can live on is indicative of the sentimentality and nostalgia surrounding this iconic landmark. Its a sombre day when a community loses a natural monument such as this.

A symbiotic relationship exists between trees and humans. Humans breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, while trees breathe in carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. And there is another aspect to consider: they exert a powerful emotional influence. A deciduous tree (which the Russian olive is) embodies the changing of the seasons and, to many, a tree is a symbol of life and renewal. However, as a living organism, a tree also eventually comes to the end of its natural lifespan.

The downtown core will look stark and empty for some time, but even when the space is eventually filled with a replacement tree or two, the place the Russian olive occupies in the hearts of those who will mourn its passing will remain as a reminder that the only constant in life is change.