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All homage to the heritage red oak in North York, Toronto!

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

satellite view of oak

The massive red oak at 76 Coral Gable Drive is 250 years old.

The City of Toronto has agreed to buy a residential property, remove a house, and create a new public park at 76 Coral Gable Drive so a magnificent red oak tree can live for another 100 years.

Four seasons in a red oak’s life. Image courtesy of Edith George.

14 years. That’s how long it took Edith George to convince the city of Toronto to take this bold move, which may be a first in Ontario. Read more about how Edith got Toronto to actively partner with citizens to make things right for this 250-year-old tree.

Edith loves the massive red oak so much that she has given her a name: Zhelevo (pronouned Jell-o-vo). With support from celebrity gardener and writer, Mark Cullen (Toronto’s version of Ed Lawrence), Edith has been singing Zhelevo’s praises to school groups, conservation authorities, foresters, heritage activists, and municipal/provincial officials for so long that she can hardly remember life before Zhelevo.

She knows that Zhelovo has deep roots, like her own roots in Macedonia. Edith’s goal all along has been for this special red oak to get the deep protection it needs so it can enjoy old age in peace, without the threat of being removed by people who care not whether green giants exist. She wants a new slew of neighbourhood kids to play under Zhelovo’s cooling canopy, and multiple generations of squirrels to bury her acorns nearby.

Like the heritage oaks in Champlain Park neighbourhood, North York’s oak tree grew up beside a river (the Humber River), in a back yard, and has been recognized by Forests Ontario under its heritage tree program. Zhelovo, however, is much bigger and older than any of our Champlain Oaks. Humans have cared for her and she is healthy, unlike a sister red oak of the same vintage that died 3 years ago.

Making the dream real

Toronto’s commitment to buy the Coral Gable Drive property, remove the house, and create a public space dominated by Zhelovo’s sturdy trunk and copious canopy comes with a price tag: $430,000 to be donated by citizens before the end of 2020.

In late 2019, Mark Cullen and his wife generously donated $100,000 to the city’s red oak project, reducing the need for you and me to contribute quite as much as we might have had to. Now, the goal for citizens is to donate $330,000. The City of Toronto’s online donation form is easy to use and those who give $20 or more will receive a tax receipt (charitable donation recognized by Canada Revenue Agency).

When you visit the City of Toronto’s donation page, under the Initiative field, choose Protect our Land and Water. Under the Program field, choose The Historic Red Oak. Fill in your personal details, provide your credit card number, and then count yourself among the hundreds of caring Canadians supporting this unique initiative. If you don’t like online donation forms, please call the City of Toronto at 416-392-1144 to donate.

Edith George snuggles up to her neighbourhood’s beloved Zhelevo


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