A man passes something to a woman. They're standing in front of a tree missing a ring of its bark. above the missing bark is police tape.
Workers collect bark cut off a tree at the Halifax Public Gardens on Tuesday. — Photo: Zane Woodford

The Halifax Public Gardens were closed on Tuesday as workers tried to repair some of the city’s most treasured trees after a baffling act of vandalism.

Someone broke into the gardens sometime overnight Monday into Tuesday, and cut rings of bark off of at least a dozen trees — some 100 years old or more.

People surround the trunk of a big tree on a sunny day. The tree has been vandalized and there's police tape on the ground in front of it.
Workers look at a vandalized tree at the Halifax Public Gardens on Tuesday. — Photo: Zane Woodford

The Public Gardens alerted people to the incident and the closure on its Twitter account.

“The Public Gardens are closed today due to an ongoing police investigation,” the institution tweeted. “It appears an individual or individuals broke into the gardens last night and damaged multiple trees with an axe. We are deeply disheartened by this senseless act.”

A tree is seen on a sunny day with a strip of its bark cut out, and yellow police tape wrapped around it.
A vandalized tree at the Halifax Public Gardens on Tuesday. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Girdling, the removal of a strip of bark around the circumference of the trunk, often kills trees. Most of the damaged trees at the public gardens visible from outside the fence on Tuesday had a strip removed all the way around their trunks.

Workers were on site Tuesday picking up the bark, stapling it back on, and then shrink-wrapping the trees in the hopes of salvaging them. But there’s no guarantee that will work.

A woman wearing white pants, a blue shirt, and a white flowery overshirt photographs a tree. The tree has been vandalized and then repaired with shrinkwrap. There's a strip of yellow police tape above the repair.
Judith Cabrita, chair of the Friends of the Public Gardens, photographs repairs to a vandalized tree at the Halifax Public Gardens on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. — Photo: Zane Woodford

The Halifax Examiner has asked the municipality, which owns the Public Gardens, and Halifax Regional Police for comment. We’ll update this article with their responses.


Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Const. John MacLeod writes in an email:

At approximately 7:30 a.m. we received a report of property damage at the Public Gardens at 5701 Spring Garden Road in Halifax. A number  trees had been damaged sometime last night. The investigation is in the early stages and anyone with information or video from the area is asked to call police.

And HRM spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray writes:

Roughly 30 trees were damaged throughout the park, possibly with a small axe or hatchet. Bark was stripped off the trunk of these trees to varying extents throughout the park. Some of the trees that were damaged are historical trees.

Many of the damaged trees are located around Griffins Pond, while others are scattered throughout the park away from the perimeter fences.

Some of the trees may be saved, based on the damage done. Staff are making every effort to maximize the chances of saving as many trees as possible, but the number of trees lost is not known at this time. The number of trees that will need removal has not yet been determined. Staff will continue to monitor their health over the coming months.

At this time, we are still assessing the cost of damages.

We anticipate that the Public Gardens will reopen tomorrow (Wednesday), however this will be based on finishing clean-up of the damage today. An announcement will be made on social media once the Public Gardens have reopened.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. From a psychiatric information source . . .
    “Psychopaths and sociopaths share a disregard for the rights of others. This disregard can surface through various behaviors, including failing to obey laws or social norms, engaging in impulsive behavior, blatantly ignoring one’s own or others’ safety, lying or manipulating, being irresponsible, frequently fighting or assaulting others, and a lack of remorse for one’s behavior. To be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, an individual must display disregard or violation of others’ rights since the age of 15, though professionals do not issue such diagnoses in people under 18 years. Conduct disorder must have been present before the age of 15. A diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder is made when antisocial behavior is not better accounted for by conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.”

  2. These are deeply distressing pictures. There’s something very strange here. This doesn’t look like a fit of rage but rather a calculated and lengthy effort by someone who also knows a bit about trees. Girdling a tree to kill it isn’t a technique that’s known to just everyone.

  3. These are the acts that bring out the viciousness in me…how I would love to peel the bark off these waste of human flesh while they stood defenceless. What ever did the trees do to harm any one? .

  4. There are some small trees at Tremont Plateau Park that look like they’ve been cut down by an amateur with an axe. I wonder if it’s related.

  5. What the hell is wrong with people?
    I am literally shaking with rage right now.
    I am hoping to God for a small miracle — that this person is caught and gets the book thrown at them.