Image is of a large elm tree, beside a house.

How a 200 year-old tree will live on through construction

This tree stood in the way of a future Lincolnville GO Station bus loop - but a community saved it.

Nov 15, 2019

The old-growth warrior has survived development and disease. But just when the end seemed certain, a community came together to see it live on.

This tree is a survivor.

It started as a seedling in Upper Canada, and for 200 years an elm tree has proudly stood in what is now Whitchurch-Stouffville, part of York Region.

It stretches up and out with a canopy of thick branches that have survived nine generations of human neighbours.

Not only is it the oldest tree in town, this particular one is very rare. It endured the Dutch Elm Disease that wreaked havoc on the species in 1970s and 1980s.

Then it stood in the way of development of a new and needed community GO bus loop.

And another chapter was added to its story.

Because thanks to intervention and a revised plan, this 40 metre-tall elm – with a trunk that’s four metres wide – will continue to dominate the landscape. And after being given a reprieve, it’ll do it while providing shade near the new Lincolnville GO Station bus loop.

Image is of a large elm tree, beside a house.

This large elm tree was in the way of initial plans for a GO bus loop. But centuries old, it will continue to stand for years to come.

“Sometimes, you just have to pause a moment and say ‘What can be done to acknowledge a living piece of history?’” said Mohamed Alkoka, Director of Corridor Infrastructure for Metrolinx .

“Preserving this tree meant cooperation between Metrolinx, Town Council and concerned citizens – including local children. It meant a shared desire to acknowledge arguably the community’s oldest resident.”

Preliminary plans for the station would have removed the tree while clearing a path for the bus loop.

After consulting with the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville about preparations for the bus loop, it became clear that this tree is special and its preservation quickly emerged as a top priority.

Metrolinx has now announced the bus loop is being re-routed around the old elm.

With the re-configured route, the parking lot will have 30-40 fewer spaces – a small price to pay for preserving a local treasure.

In fact, the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville put this tree on its Heritage Register in September. And the new bus loop route will give GO customers a terrific view of this ancient sentinel. Among those customers, are the very young, who raised voices to protect the gentle giant.

Among supporters of the tree, were a group of local school children, who wrote to Metrolinx.

“The 200-year-old elm tree should not be cut down because it survived a deadly disease, it has more rights to the land than us, and it is one of the most historical things in Stouffville,” said a letter, signed by seven students.

Tender for construction of the new Lincolnville GO Station will be issued later this year.

And as that process goes on, the old warrior will continue planted at a post that’s centuries old.