Over the holidays, we had to say good-bye to a beloved City of Burlington landmark.
The Roly Bird Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) tree (known as ‘The Tree of Good Fortune’, located on the northeast side of Burlington City Hall shadowing Burlington’s Cenotaph, had to be removed. During a powerful 2018 windstorm with wind gust exceeding 100 km/h, the Roly Bird Horse Chestnut suffered a major limb failure exposing rot in the tree. Since then, Forestry staff have performed both aerial inspections and resistograph testing of the tree to investigate the extent of the decay.
Unfortunately, results showed extensive decay in both main stems of the tree’s canopy. Also, staff determined that based on the location and extent of the rot in the canopy, no amount of pruning or re-cabling could mitigate the risk to public safety. So, the tree had to be removed. It was done during the holiday closure of City Hall to safely remove the tree with reduced pedestrian traffic in the area. A sign was left up during the holidays explaining what had happened.
However, all is not lost. Staff will work to remove the stump of the tree and in the spring of 2020, we will replant a new Horse Chestnut tree in the same place.
Next to the tree were two plaques explaining its significance. The first plaque read:
The Tree of Good Fortune
dedicated to ROLY BIRD Mayor of Burlington 1978-1991
in honour of the faith and ambition he instilled in the recipients of the tree’s fruit.
Tuesday, May 26, 1992
In December 1978 this horse chestnut tree was named by Mayor Roly Bird as “THE TREE OF GOOD FORTUNE”.
During Mayor Bird’s term of office (1978-1991), he gathered the horse chestnuts from this tree in the fall and presented them throughout the year to citizens of the City, visitors to Burlington and political dignitaries.
When Mayor Bird honoured someone with a souvenir chestnut, he offered the following words of wisdom…
“This is the fruit of THE TREE OF GOOD FORTUNE. If you accept this fruit and believe, have faith and work very hard in life, you will achieve all of the goals and objectives you set for yourself, and everything that you aspire to will come to pass. You must, however, continue to hold on to the fruit of
THE TREE OF GOOD FORTUNE,
to have belief, great faith, and especially work hard, and the fruit of
THE TREE OF GOOD FORTUNE
will greatly assist you as you move through this life.”
During the 2019 trip of the Official Burlington Delegation to the City of Itabashi, Japan to commemorate the 30th anniversary of our twinning relationship, I presented a horse chestnut from our Tree of Good Fortune to Itabashi Mayor Sakakmoto.
The second plaque next to the tree read:
This chestnut tree was planted from seed by Dr. Wilber Weaver and is plaqued in remembrance of the significance of this location to Burlington’s heritage.
After the tree was taken down over the holidays, city staff began working with the Burlington Sculptors and Woodcarvers Guild to give them planks of wood from the tree for its members to use.
— Mayor Marianne Meed Ward
This was an important tree and piece of Burlington’s history. I was truly sad to hear of the damage it suffered and that nothing could be done to save it, while ensuring the public safety of our residents. But, I’m happy that staff will be looking to plant another horse chestnut tree in its place as a symbol of the original to commemorate Burlington’s rich history. As well, I’m glad wood planks from the original tree will be donated to our local woodcarvers guild — I’m sure their members will make beautiful pieces to extend the life of this important Burlington tree.
*Posted by John Bkila, Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist