A crew made up of workers from Nordic Tree Services, Nechako Northcoast, the Ministry of Transportation and CN Rail took the morning and part of the afternoon July 23 to remove a tree that had the potential to fall and injure motorists along Hwy 16, about 55 km west of Terrace.
The tree also held a memorial at its base to Prince Rupert teen Ashley Coveyduck, who died in June 2009 when the vehicle she was riding in left the highway and went into the Skeena River.
To protect the memorial, the crew put plywood over the memorial cross and other items there in Coveyduck’s memory and plans were to cut down the tree except for the first 11 to 14 feet of it so the memorial could remain there.
Flames from a fire several years ago had burned the tree, and road crews had been keeping an eye on it as it was in danger of falling on the highway.
The westbound lane of Hwy 16 was shut down for equipment, and flaggers directed any traffic down the remaining single lane when possible between branches being removed from the bottom half of the tree.
CN Rail let a couple of trains pass on their way to Prince Rupert before shutting down the tracks until the afternoon train.
Pierre Lussier of Nordic Tree Services spent the morning cutting limbs off the tree with a chainsaw while standing in a bucket attached to his truck and maneuvering himself around and up the tree as needed.
Branches were cut off to lighten the tree’s weight before crews strung a rope from it to another tree about 200 feet away in the westbound ditch in an attempt to direct the tree to fall that way instead of across the highway.
The tree was rotting as shown by the branches being fed into a wood chipper – instead of coming out as sawdust, only a fine powder was blown out of the machine.
In the afternoon, Lussier began making cuts in the west side of the tree to weaken it for the fall, which took another half hour or so before crackling could be heard and the tree began to fall.
With traffic stopped in both directions, the tree crashed down onto the highway, blocking both lanes and kicking up a cloud of dust and wood chips.
Crews hurried with a front end loader to re-open the eastbound lane so flaggers could let vehicles past.
A couple of big chunks of bark were saved for the family who had requested them.