Corp Comm Connects

She loved this bur oak tree in Vaughan for nearly 50 years -- then, she helped save it

'One owner told me that he bought his house because it looked across at the tree,' Joan Love says
April 23, 2019
Megan Ogilvie

This bur oak began its life on Lot 21, Concession 9 in Vaughan, on a property that was purchased from the Crown in 1835 by a man named Peter Wardlaw.

The tree is so old that it could have been growing when the land was purchased. Over time, it became one of many trees growing along a farm fence line.

The farm property eventually became part of what was then the Kleinburg Golf Club, and the bur oak stood tall on the north side of a back fence.

I have been a lover of nature all my life, and enjoy walking outdoors in the natural areas on the former golf course, along Major Mackenzie Dr., and our property, which we’ve lived on since 1960.

For some 60 years I have walked my backfield routes, enjoying nature, looking for migrating spring and fall birds and always stopping to admire the bur oak. When my grandchildren walked with me, we always visited the tree.

It is gorgeous; it’s never been hit by lighting and, even after all these years, there are no broken branches.

Now that I’m in my 80s, I’ve learned that life always brings change.

In the fall of 2006, word got out that the Kleinburg Golf Club had been sold and a housing development was planned for the property.

In January 2007, the city of Vaughan held a meeting at City Hall for the proposed development and interested parties were invited to attend.

I was very worried about the bur oak: Would it be taken down?

My good friend Hannah Mizuno and I decided to visit the tree to take some photos and measurements and bring the information to the meeting. At that time, the tree had a circumference of 3.6 m (11 feet, 10 inches).

At the meeting, I was the last to speak and I only spoke for about three minutes because I got all teary-eyed talking about this beautiful tree.

Still, a roomful of people learned about the mighty oak, though I couldn’t help but feel the glaring stares of the developers sitting nearby.

Many people, including members of council, wanted to see our photos of the tree, and the result was that the bur oak would not be taken down. Instead, it was protected.

As the construction surrounding the bur oak progressed, I continued to walk by to make sure that the tree was being looked after.

One spring, I noticed a lot of water pooling at the base of the tree and I called our regional councillor, who made sure a drain was installed to help with water runoff.

And one day, when I visited the sales centre, I noticed the tree was included on a site map of the housing development. They had labelled it the “Love Tree,” not because it was on our property but because we are the ones who rescued it.

On two separate occasions, I have met people who now call the golf course development home. Both live on two of the four properties that surround the bur oak, which now has pride of place at the parkette within the development on Torrey Pines Rd.

One owner told me that he bought his house because it looked across at the tree. The other owner said she looks at the tree every day before she goes to work, and loves it.

Hearing these things kind of tugs at my heart. These homeowners are pleased to have the tree remain. Aren’t we all?

In March 2018, Marilyn Iafrate, Ward 1 councillor (Maple/Kleinburg), asked Forests Ontario to recognize the bur oak as a heritage tree, a designation it was granted. The bur oak, which Iafrate calls “magnificent,” is estimated to be more than 170 years old. In a note to the Star proposing the oak be featured as a Tree of the Week, Iafrate suggests people contact Forests Ontario to nominate other impressive trees for heritage recognition “as this is the best possible protection available for them."