The Family Tree

The Family Tree

Blog contributor - Aaron Strickland

Owner - Sustainable Tree

It’s always a tough decision to cut a tree down, but what about when it’s at the family-owned cottage?  Must decisions about what happens around the cottage go before a committee to come to resolution? Sometimes taking into consideration all the emotions that come with preserving the land as it was for the next generation can make coming to a decision extremely complex.  So how do you even start assessing the options? 

Establish a set of priorities starting with safety.  There are a few visible signs that a tree will exhibit that will make the decision to remove it pretty easy (dead!, large woodpecker holes, extensive decay).  The hazard only increases the longer the tree stays standing. Sometimes the leaves will start to fall when they’re not supposed to, sometimes the top of the tree will start to die off.  Once a tree comes under stress, it may eventually become a hazard to the family that has been fighting to keep it. However,  if the safety factor can be ruled out (probably best with the help of an arborist), then it’s time to consider what the emotional price is.

The family cottage on the lake is iconic Muskoka.  We visualize the tall trees surrounding our sanctuaries being as much about the experience as the building itself.  We don't want to lose any of the trees. It is important to figure out the objective that everyone has for the trees on the property and communicate this. Talk to the rest of the family and establish if there are options to make the tree healthier and more beneficial.    Perhaps this is the time to talk about sight line views that let you look out over the water, or the towering granite rock face across the bay that’s really what everyone wants to see.  Do the neighbours have a different idea of modesty, and you’d really rather keep the trees as dense as possible while maximizing aesthetics?   Determine that it’s safe, and then proceed with alternative options. 

A Professional Arborist, while not at all trained in family mediation, can bring facts and suggestions to the table.  It’s important to make sure that the property will remain one where memories are built, and where everyone can feel comfortable about the landscape.  An arborist can assess the safety, as well as take the goals for the landscape into consideration, so that you and your family can get back to speaking to each other, and enjoy the dock.   

For more information on Sustainable Tree & Aaron Strickland visit his website @

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Telephone: (705) 380-2088

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