500-year timeline marked alongside an old-growth Douglas fir slab in Qualicum Beach

500-year timeline marked alongside an old-growth Douglas fir slab in Qualicum Beach
500-year timeline marked alongside an old-growth Douglas fir slab in Qualicum Beach
500-year timeline marked alongside an old-growth Douglas fir slab in Qualicum Beach

It was in about 1515 that the seedlings of a local Douglas fir sprouted under warm sunlight following a forest fire in Qualicum Beach.

Tom Whitfield decided those seeds mattered and has spent years putting together their story.

Now, a 500-year-old timeline sits beside a slab of the tree in the Qualicum Beach Heritage Forest, a covenant-protected area spotted with coastal Douglas fir, western red cedar, hemlock, grand fir and Sitka spruce.

“The overall idea was to put the life of this very old, large tree into our own historical perspective,” said Whitfield, the project leader and president of the Brown Property Preservation Society.

The historical timeline is meant to show the most notable events during the life of the tree in relation to local, as well as worldwide, change.

READ MORE: Demolition date nears for residence in Qualicum Beach Heritage Forest

READ MORE: River claims ‘matriarch’ estimated to be 200 years old in Parksville

READ MORE: 1,000 trees planted locally due to G7 Summit deal

Whitfield said the idea of making a tree timeline spans as far back as his childhood in Ontario.

“They had a tree round, like a slab, with dates on it. And then as I grew up I remember going back to that museum and seeing this great big [slab], and for there it was probably like an oak tree, with various really old dates on it,” he said. “So, that always stuck with me.”

Fast forward to the present day, Whitfield has 30 years of being a forester with a background in forest ecology under his belt, as well as a career in real estate. He’s lived in Qualicum Beach for more than 20 years.

The push to actually make the timeline came in 2008, when the conservation covenant to protect the 50-acre forest was signed.

Between 1996 and 2004, the Brown Property Preservation Society raised money through public donations, as well as receiving money from the town, to purchase the forest to save it from development. Whitfield said it was an enormous effort to raise that much money from the public.

“I don’t know of another place in Canada that [publically] raised $1.3 million — the town kicked in [around] $600,000, but I don’t know of another community that fundraised for all those years,” he said. “It was the mom and pops of here, and it was 20 bucks, 50 bucks, 100 bucks.”

After the 2008 signing, Whitfield went looking for a stump — one that was sound and not rotted.

“I looked at every stump in that forest, that 50-acre forest, and found one and luckily it was not far from the trail edge so we could actually get at it,” he said.

The slab was then stored and dried until Whitfield, with input from Qualicum First Nation, a group of homeschool kids and some members of the BPPS, started putting together the timeline. He calls it a “community effort,” and said the town of Qualicum Beach parks departments, public works and maintenance departments were very supportive of the project.

“The timeline shows some of the significant events that took place between the years of 1515 to 1915. When this tree first germinated and began to grow in full sunlight after the area was burnt in about 1515, it was about then that the early explorer from Spain, Ferdinand Magellan, sailed around the world for the very first time in 1520,” he said.

Ultimately, the timeline is able to contextualize time and history through rings on a tree.

From a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami off of Vancouver Island in 1700, to the second smallpox outbreak of 1862 that devastated Island Indigenous people, the five centuries-old tree lived through a lot of change.

The Douglas fir slab and historical timeline can be found at the kiosk located along the walking trails of the Heritage Forest.

cloe.logan@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

NatureParksvillequalicum beach

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The scene of a single-vehicle crash along Dolphin Drive in Nanoose Bay on Monday morning, April 19. (Mandy Moraes photo)
RCMP: No injuries reported in rollover crash in Nanoose Bay

Police say passengers indicate driver left the scene

The Town of Qualicum Beach plans to establish temporary shelters. (Town of Qualicum Beach illustration)
Town of Qualicum Beach seeks $1.25M grant to build temporary housing units

Aim is to move tenants in prior to the end of 2021

Mount Arrowsmith Teachers’ Association and its Nanaimo-Ladysmith counterpart seek stricter COVID-19 rules. (PQB News file photo)
Mount Arrowsmith teachers’ union asks health authority for stricter COVID-19 measures

Teachers ask for vaccine, more online learning, mask mandate for primary students

Dashwood Volunteer Fire Department emergency response vehicle. (PQB News file photo)
Dashwood fire department issues warning to residents to hold off on yard debris burning

Fire chief: ‘Hold off on burning until we get some rain’

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read