Kelowna residents enjoying the beach at City Park on Wednesday evening (June 2) were startled when a sizable chunk of tree decided to come down and join them.
“We just saw this huge branch drop out of nowhere and it dropped onto a ton of stuff, like backpacks and bikes,” park-goer Joanne Moon told the Capital News.
“Nobody was hurt or near the tree at the time,” she added. “There was a man sleeping underneath a tree a couple of feet over and I was thinking if that happened to him he would have been severely injured.”
The incident happened around 7 p.m. near Hot Sands Beach.
Moon said a crowd of around 20 people gathered to see what happened and move the tree off the beach.
According to the City of Kelowna’s urban forestry supervisor, Andrew Hunsberger, shedding limbs is a fairly common occurrence with cottonwood trees like the ones found in City Park.
Cottonwoods are native to the Okanagan and experience something called “sudden limb drop,” according to Hunsberger. Although it doesn’t happen often, it’s something to be mindful of.
The city said it has done a thorough inspection of its trees just a few months ago, which is exactly on schedule.
“What happens with these cottonwoods is that you can’t see any defects on the tree at all, and they just drop limbs – it’s well documented,” Hunsberger explained.
“With most trees, if a branch is doing to fail, there are many indicators. With cottonwoods, it’s not something you can spot, and we do keep a really close eye on our beach parks.
“We’ve probably removed half of what is there now over the past 10 or 15 years, so eventually we will replace these with other trees.”
Moon said she’s not too concerned about the cottonwood trees and she plans to keep going to her favourite beach spot at City Park.
Hunsberger said it’s rare for a falling branch to hit someone but it’s fair to say that anyone sitting under these trees is doing so at their own risk.