The nearly century-old Wilson Commemorative Maple will be taken down in January due to disease, however a new commemorative tree will be planted in the spring.

Iconic heritage maple tree reaches end of life

The Wilson Commemorative Maple was planted in 1923 at Glover Road and 96 Avenue in Fort Langley to honour fallen First World War soldier

One of Fort Langley’s most beloved landmarks has reached the end of its life.

The Wilson Commemorative Maple, a big leaf maple tree planted in 1923 at Glover Road and 96 Avenue, is being taken down after significant fungal growth on the tree trunk and internal decay were discovered.

A Township staff report says the risk of tree parts falling would have “significant public health and safety implications with potential impact to nearby buildings, pedestrians or vehicles.”

The tree was planted in honour of A. W. Wilson, who was killed in action at Vimy Ridge, France, in 1917. The maple, which typically lives 75 to 80 years, is part of an initiative started in 1919 by Dr. Benjamin Butler Marr and Archie Payne to honour more than 350 local men who served in the First World War, through the renaming of Langley’s roads and planting of memorial trees.

The Wilson Commemorative Maple was added to the Community Heritage Register in 2005, is on the provincial and national registers, and the National Inventory of Canadian Military Memorials.

While the tree is scheduled to be cut back in January to a stump, around 10 to 12 feet high, during Monday afternoon’s (Dec.12) council meeting, Mayor Jack Froese presented a motion to have staff come up with a list of different ways A.W. Wilson can continue to be commemorated.

In his motion Froese offered a few suggestions, such as planting one of the harvested seedlings from a heritage big leaf maple, or a similar maple tree, at the corner of Glover Road and 96 Avenue to replace the diseased tree, or using harvested seedlings to plant a new tree in a different location, if it cannot be done at Glover Road and 96 Avenue. Froese also requested that a ceremony be held in the spring to honour this replanting and the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

“(The tree) is a significant landmark in Fort Langley, and certainly in the Township of Langley, and was planted by some war vets who wanted to remember their fallen comrades,” Froese said.

“The whole intent of this is to ensure that we do something to replace the tree … and just to remember A. W. Wilson, because this is the tree that was planted for him. And certainly to remember those who died and fought at Vimy Ridge in April, 1917.”

Coun. Bob Long said his hope is that a new tree can be planted in the same location, as the intersection of Glover Road and 96 Avenue would have been chosen back in 1923 for a particular reason. He also mentioned that there have been discussions with the Langley Heritage Society on saving the wood from the tree for use in commemorative projects.

Coun. Charlie Fox noted that Charlie’s Tree, another memorial for veterans, had recently come crashing down on Highway One, and asked if a larger plan could be made for the other commemorative trees in the Township that are beginning to age-out.