Ruth Barry and Jerry Van receive the CVN gift bag for the winning submission in the 2022 Comox Valley Nature Tree of the Year contest. Photo by Kerri Scott

Off The Page: Hanging onto Valley history with the Tree of the Year

Garry oak tree on Glacier Road in Courtenay is more than 400 years old

It has seen history unfold, generations come and go, and even sat on the land prior to settlers arriving in the Comox Valley.

A Garry oak tree on Glacier Road in Courtenay is now — more than 400 years later — getting some exceptional treatment, as it is being recognized as the Tree of the Year by Comox Valley Nature.

Kerri Scott with CV Nature is the next guest on The Record’s Off The Page podcast set to be released July 6 and talks about the special tree, and what its owners are doing to protect it for more centuries to come.

“If you know Garry oak trees, they’re kind of gnarly and quite interesting. Looking at the base, the diameter of the tree is 120 centimetres wide — it’s massive,” said Scott.

Ruth Berry and Jerry Van bought the property about 12 years ago where the tree resides.

“When Ruth and Jerry built their house, they hired an arborist to consult on how they should build (it). The tree was very protected when they built their house and then the architect built it with the tree in mind so that the views are looking into the tree, like you’re in the branches, and it is just the whole focal point of them buying the property and building the house was around this tree.”

While Garry oaks are a popular tree on Vancouver Island, Scott explained in the Comox Valley, only about five per cent of the original Garry oak forest is left in the area. She estimates many are between 100 and 200 years old and this particular tree of the year is one of — if not the largest — Garry oak on northern Vancouver Island.

The reason for that, noted Scott, is the tree hasn’t had a lot of competition or other canopies encroaching around the area.

Around 1960, BC Hydro placed metal bands into the upper limbs of the tree to keep it from tipping over onto the power lines that run along Glacier Road, and overall, the tree is doing really well, she added.

Another reason why this tree is of particular importance is some of the stories and experiences it has been a part of throughout the centuries.

“Ruth and her mom, Denise Nadler, were living together in the house; her mum was diagnosed with severe dementia. And at one point they were out in the yard together and her mum had tripped and fallen on the grass under this Garry oak tree. And when Ruth went to look for her, she found her lying on the ground. And she was happily staring up into these gnarled branches of the oak tree just with a huge smile on her face, I think because of dementia that she had, she was nonverbal. So she wasn’t speaking, but she was very happy to be there taking in the beauty of the tree.”

As for the next steps for the contest? You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out.

To listen to the full episode, download Off The Page on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and everywhere podcasts are heard, or visit

New episodes of Off The Page drop every Wednesday.

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