As the City of Oak Harbor Planning Department drafts potential changes to the Garry Oak Protection code, the Oak Harbor Garry Oak Society respectfully urges the city to save the oaks by closing the ivy loophole.

This Garry oak in Illwaco Alley was removed after it was found to be dead, seen here after being partially cut down. (A utility pole is near the trunk.) The likely cause of death was a severe ivy infestation that shaded and strangled the oak. Ivy also grows in other nearby trees as seen in the background.

Invasive, nonnative ivy is a major unregulated threat to our city’s Garry oaks. Left unchecked, ivy can grow up a Garry oak tree to the highest reaches of the canopy. Based upon our observations, it has killed numerous oaks in recent years, and will continue to threaten our oaks.

In fact, ivy is one of the leading, preventable causes of premature oak death in Oak Harbor. The ivy strangles the tree, shades it out, and prevents crucial oxygen exchange from happening – in the end the ivy always wins and the tree dies. Ivy growth on Garry oaks adds a significant amount of unnatural, year-round drag to the tree which can cause instability during common high wind events and therefore poses a threat to public safety.

Society volunteers, including Kathy and Duncan (pictured) and many others, have worked very hard to conduct outreach to landowners whose Garry oak trees are affected by invasive ivy. We have freely provided landowners helpful information on ivy mitigation and in some cases have even given direct assistance in mitigating severe ivy infestations. Thank you volunteers and Oak Harbor landowners for this demonstration of positive action.
While a number of landowners have been receptive and mitigated their Garry oak ivy infestations, not all are willing to take these simple measures to protect the Garry oak trees because ivy is not mentioned in the current protection code. This is the ivy loophole that must be closed to help save the oaks.

With a revision in the works, we respectfully urge the city to close the ivy loophole to protect the oaks, making it against city code to allow ivy or other damaging plants to grow on them. Otherwise, we will continue to see the senseless, and easily preventable, loss of our mature oaks because of invasive plants such as ivy.

If you too would like to see the city of Oak Harbor close the ivy loophole, consider sending your Garry oak protection code revision comments to:

Senior Planner Cac Kamak

City of Oak Harbor Development Services
865 SE Barrington Dr,
Oak Harbor, WA 98277

We will be sure to let you know of any official opportunities to comment as a future update in this newsletter and on our Facebook page.