An old, rotting tree at Vernon’s popular blue heron rookery in the city’s north end gave way Tuesday night, Aug. 18, landing on a tilt against a pair of neighbouring businesses.
The tree ended up on a slant, leaning against AJ Machine Works Inc. and North Okanagan Closets which are side-by-side in one building on 24th Street.
A spokesperson for North Okanagan Closets said a friend was driving by the shop at approximately 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and saw the tree fall. The spokesperson said there is some damage to the building’s roof.
Removing the tree won’t be easy, said Rita Bos, Vernon Heronry Protection Society senior director, as she and other heronry society members simply can’t go and remove the tree without proper permissions.
“With that property, and even though the birds are not there, we are not allowed to touch the tree,” said Bos.
She said the herons have taken off from the heronry, or fledged, meaning the young herons have gone to learn how to fish while their parents migrate south.
“Some will tough it out and stay in Coldstream,” said Bos. “But they are cold. Some go as far as Florida and Costa Rica.”
The rookery was in the spotlight earlier this summer when Vernon council rescinded third reading of rezoning a 20th Street property neighbouring the rookery June 8 and the matter, including a covenant protecting the birds’ habitat, was to go to another public hearing.
A first public hearing in July 2019 drew an overflow crowd to Vernon council chambers.
The new public hearing, set for Monday, Sept. 14, will be held at the Vernon Recreation Centre auditorium to accommodate more people.
City council first voted to implement a covenant protecting the habitat site of the blue-labelled endangered species from construction disturbances following a lengthy public hearing in July 2019.
The covenant, which has yet to be finalized, limits construction during the heron’s spring-summer nesting season and put a 100-metre noise sensitivity buffer into effect, as advised by an environmental consultant. Several other stipulations, such as dust control and high-risk activities, are included in the covenant.
Following an independent land survey and environmental assessment, Scotland Constructors asked council to waive the covenant as the proposed site of development is outside the 100-metre noise buffer zone.
Councillors unanimously voted to hold up its covenant during the regular meeting May 11 to avoid another public hearing, which would likely further delay construction. The issue was brought up for reconsideration at the following meeting.
The North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club encouraged members and residents write to mayor and council to encourage the protection and upholding of the environmental covenant. Council received nearly 200 emails as a result.