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Downtown Langley's last maple will be cut down

"Bob and Teresa Wheeler sit beneath the last mature maple tree in downtown Langley. The tree will be cut down in early January.Matt Johnson / staff photoEarly this month, a tree cutter will remove a maple tree from a sitting area near Linds Drug in Langley. And that will be the end of an era in which summer shade and fall color once adorned every corner of the streets of downtown.The tree's demise will make the store's parking lot a safer place to walk, said owner Ron Lind. Lind said he is having the mature maple removed because its roots have cracked and humped pavement in the parking lot and cobblestones in the sitting area. He said several downtown shoppers have tripped on the humps.Lind said he had hoped to repair his parking lot and the sitting area without having to cut the tree. In recent years, he has had the tree doctor treat the tree twice to keep it healthy. Although it is in good health now, Lind said, the work to repair the pavement around it will sever so many large roots that it will undoubtedly die.Several decades old, the tree is the last of its kind on First Street. Another large maple near Linds had to be removed five years ago after it died.Maple trees in downtown Langley were a tradition for more than 100 years. Mildred Anderson, a retired Star Store employee who has lived in Langley for more than 60 years, said the trees used to grow everywhere in downtown. In a photo she keeps on the wall of her Langley farmhouse, Anderson points out nearly unbroken rows of maples lining both sides of Anthes Street during the 1920s. There were others planted on First and Second streets, she said, though not in such large numbers.Those trees have been there a long time, Anderson said.Few of those trees still stand along the street, Anderson said, because many home and business owners gave them the ax in past decades when they got tired of the huge leaf fall every autumn.It was the dirtiest thing. All those leaves every year, she said. Not everyone dislikes the leaves. Bob and Teresa Wheeler, owners of Wheeler Galleries, said they enjoy the time every autumn when the Linds tree turns color and starts dropping leaves. Their gallery is about 10 feet from the tree and has often been decorated with the falling leaves. In the past, the couple have actually swept maple leaves into the gallery to adorn the floor.It is one of the most beautiful trees in the fall, Teresa Wheeler said.The tree has also been a play space for the couple's daughter, Natalie. Teresa Wheeler said Natalie would play around the tree and have make-believe adventures on the little trail beside it while she waited for the end of her parents' work day after school.But, Teresa said, she also understands how the tree can be a safety hazard. She said she has seen several people trip and fall on the cobblestones that have been disturbed by the tree's roots.The area around the tree will not be converted into more parking space after the maple is felled. Lind said the sitting area will be landscaped into a small cobblestoned park. The maple will be replaced with smaller katsura trees. Trees may some day return to First Street. Two weeks ago, Langley's parks board asked the city to consider placing trees in large, concrete pots along the downtown sidewalks. City staff will research the idea.Ron Lind said a portion of his parking lot will be closed for a day or two when the maple tree is cut. "

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