VANCOUVER — Eat your heart out, Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Vancouver’s famed Hollow Tree is leaning no more after a work crew, armed with a crane and backhoe, stabilized the dead thousand-year-old red cedar and straightened it out.
“This is a really big day,” said Bruce Macdonald, a member of the Stanley Park Hollow Tree Conservation Society that raised the funds to realign the tree.
“It’s good now to be giving it the bit of attention that it needs.”
Resurrecting the tilting city landmark hardly came easy, as the work crew lagged hours behind schedule and ran into unexpected problems such as hidden tree roots, stubborn rocks, and a briefly smoking engine.
Some might suggest the fact that stabilizing the tree ran into complications is only fitting, given its checkered past.
Countless visitors from around the world have posed in front of the tree for more than a century.
Long dead, the tree has long been held upright by a mess of metal braces and cables. It deteriorated further when a powerful wind storm battered the city in December 2006, knocking down 10,000 other trees in the park.
The storm made the tree’s precarious tilt even worse, prompting worried parks officials, who feared it posed a danger to visitors, to fence it off and vote to cut it down in March of last year.
The board reaffirmed its decision three months later, before agreeing in July to delay taking it down while an independent engineering firm examined other options.
In January, the board approved a design to realign and stabilize the tree and encouraged the Hollow Tree Society to continue its private fundraising.
But what to do with the tree has been a point of contention for many Vancouver residents and it was no different on this day.
Some who drove along the winding Stanley Park road on which the tree is situated yelled “chop it down!” and “it’s dead!”
Others honked their horns in support, gave a quick thumbs-up or shouted “good job!”
Dean Jackson, who drove through the park on his way from North Vancouver, said he’s all for preserving an important piece of Vancouver’s history.
“It’s funny when you think about the tree itself, it just represents a piece of wood,” Jackson said.
“But I think what it represents in total is that this is the history of this city.”
Eang Choy, an Ontario resident visiting British Columbia for the summer, said he was all for the tree being realigned.
“I think it’s awesome that people are donating money to get this landmark up,” he said. “It’s a great thing to do.”
John, who declined to give his last name, didn’t agree with that assessment since the tree has been defunct for a long time.
“I think it’s a little silly … All it is is a dead tree. But I guess people love that tree,” he said.
No matter which side of the fence they landed on, most who passed the tree couldn’t help but stare at the stabilization efforts.
Tourists in horse-drawn carriages and shuttle buses reached for their cameras to record the occasion.
The restoration work is expected to cost about $200,000. Macdonald said the Hollow Tree Society is currently about $30,000 shy of that goal and is soliciting donations through its website.
Now that the tree has been realigned, work will continue over the next month or two to stabilize the foundation using steel. Timber supports will hold the tree in place until then.