There will be fewer places to pick out the perfect real Christmas tree on the North Shore this festive season, with new COVID-19 rules making it increasingly difficult for groups to get approval to set up their annual fundraising events.
But, in true Christmas spirit, residents will still have the opportunity, thanks to a lot of effort put in by some of the local Lions Clubs and Scout troops to gain approval by meeting Covid-19 guidelines put in place by the provincial health authority.
Eric Miura, Lynn Valley Lions Club president, said having to jump through more hoops than usual to get the event set up was an “understatement,” but the club was pleased it could make a contactless drive-thru Christmas tree lot a reality for the community.
“We have some experience hosting events over this COVID period, so I think that’s why we haven’t been rejected,” he said, explaining the club had been working on an intensive proposal for the past six months.
“It’s a tradition, and the Lynn Valley Lions Club is more than happy to do all the paperwork and make sure it’s safe. We know that we can handle the safety, it’s just a lot of protocols and a lot of procedures.
“We’re proud of our ability to adapt.”
Miura said the club moved its event from the parking lot at the Royal Canadian Legion's Lynn Valley branch to a much larger site in the Moodyville area, partnering with Wall Financial, and even built roads to make the drive-thru possible.
He said people could either choose their tree online – variety, size, price – or drive through and view the trees and pick one from their car at the site at East Second Street and Ridgeway Avenue.
“Everyone has to stay within their cars and all of our team members must be family units working in their particular zone on the site,” Miura said.
Community members will need to book a time slot in advance online to visit the site, so numbers can be controlled and managed appropriately.
While the drive-thru tree lot adds festive cheer to the lives of North Vancouverites, Miura said the event was also important because the club’s future applications for community gaming grants were associated with how much an organization fundraises.
“We do raise a fair bit, but this is our largest fundraiser – so it’s almost a double whammy if we don’t make a good effort,” he said, also noting that proceeds from the tree lot go back into the community to help schools and other organizations.
The Christmas Tree Market drive-thru opened Friday, Nov. 27.
Sadly, not all clubs will be opening their tree lots. After 75 years of helping make the holidays brighter, Dave Weightman, president of the Ambleside Tiddlycove Lions Club, said the club would not be running its annual tree lot fundraiser in Ambleside this year due to confusion surrounding the provincial restrictions.
He said the club had made the hard decision not to open, believing they did not have provincial permission based on the tree lot being classified as a fundraising event but later discovered on Nov. 24 that changes had been made that they were not informed about.
“I found out five minutes ago that on the Nov. 19, unbeknownst to us, the ministry of health changed our designation from an event to a vending market and that would have allowed us to open," he said, speaking on Nov. 24.
Having cancelled much of their plans, he said the club could no longer go ahead with their market as their tree grower had now sold off most of his trees.
Weightman said the club had worked closely with the District of West Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health to put forward a plan that they felt met the COVID-19 guidelines of B.C. Health, and he wished he had known sooner of the designation changes.
“We asked for reclassification as our plan outlined numbers restrictions which would see very limited numbers, masked, and distanced in a 12,000-sqare-foot outdoor setting," he said, explaining his original plan.
The funds raised from the annual event usually allow the club to support many North Shore charities and foundations, which Weightman said would be greatly missed.
“It’s just disappointing, like everything else we’re facing,” he said, with the hope the club’s tree lot would reopen in 2021.
Similarly, West Vancouver Scouts posted to their website the tree lot at Taylor Way and Clyde Avenue at Park Royal will not be opening “due to restrictions and the uncertainty around COVID-19.”
However, the 11th Seymour Scouts were able to set up their annual tree fundraising sale, and said they have “no shortage of Christmas trees” at their event in Deep Cove.
The tree sale, which runs Nov. 27 to Dec. 23. has been relocated to Dollarton Village, at 489 Dollarton Hwy., and the scouts have advised people to “please follow all COVID protocols” when picking up a tree, including wearing a mask and physical distancing.
Their website states that additional safety instructions are posted at the tree lot.
Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News