If you looked up, way up, in Stanley Park yesterday, you would find Doug Carter.
Mr. Carter, an affable, 41-year-old transit worker, spent most of the day 15 metres off the ground, resting on a narrow perch slung between two tall trees, overlooking the busy causeway that knifes through the renowned, 400-hectare oasis of evergreens.
The new protest sport of tree-sitting had come to Canada's third-largest city.
No one seemed more surprised than Mr. Carter himself.
"I've been getting all these calls on my cellphone, from my sister, my mother, pals of mine. They can't believe it's me up here," he shouted down to a reporter. "I can't believe it, either."
But Mr. Carter and his friend Rick McCallion felt something snap when the Vancouver Park Board voted at a raucous meeting Monday night in favour of widening Stanley Park's narrow, three-lane causeway.
At least 40 trees, possibly as many as 130, will have to be cut down along the well-travelled commuter route that runs through the park from the Lion's Gate Bridge into downtown Vancouver.
Worried that logging would begin immediately, Mr. McCallion occupied one of the trees right after the vote. He was relieved by Mr. Carter yesterday morning.
"We're not part of any group," said Mr. McCallion, a software consultant. "This is a defensive action, out of a sense of duty to protect something that is being attacked. The issue here is democracy."
Mr. Carter climbed down later in the day after park board officials agreed to hold off until a legal challenge by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund is heard in B.C. Supreme Court tomorrow.
But the instant protest may be a harbinger of things to come.
Trees versus pavement is an issue that resonates with environmentalists, particularly in an area like Stanley Park, one of the largest urban parks in North America and a revered part of the city since 1888.
"I don't think anybody in Vancouver who is interested in preserving parkland is going to let this go," said Roslyn Cassells, the lone park commissioner to oppose the widening plan.
"I've been getting calls from all over the world. It's really shocked people internationally. They can't believe we're going to pave any part of Stanley Park."
Most park board commissioners had strongly opposed the plan before last year's municipal elections, but changed their mind over concerns the road was no longer safe, and after receiving a promise of some park improvements by the city, as well as a commitment to phase out all private traffic in the park by 2030.
Commissioner Allan DeGenova said it was his toughest decision in seven years on the board.
Now that the decision is made, however, he has no qualms.
"Once I make a decision, I make it and I don't waffle," Mr. DeGenova declared. "This is a short-term measure in the interest of safety in return for eventually getting the cars out of the park altogether."
He accused tree-cutting opponents of media grandstanding. "This really isn't about trees. It's the politics of the thing. I care just as much as they do, but you have to care about lives. All Ms. Cassells cares about is squirrels running across the road."
The width of the causeway lanes are to be increased from 2.9 to 3.5 metres in order to align with the newly widened lanes of the Lion's Gate Bridge. Critics scoff at safety concerns, arguing that most accidents on the causeway are rear-end collisions, indicating that speed, not lane size, is the major danger. Widening the road and straightening one of its curves, they say, will lead to more, rather than fewer, accidents.
"Stanley Park is a jewel of Vancouver. For the park board to make a decision to log this park is something no one can understand," said David Cadman of the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation. "They would never do something like this in Central Park in New York. We have a treasure here people want to preserve."
Environmentalists are fighting the proposal in court on the grounds that the park board, the only elected body of its kind in Canada, has no mandate to allow Stanley Park to be tampered with in such a manner.
"It is clear the board is only allowed to exercise its jurisdiction for park purposes. Widening a causeway is not a park," lawyer Karen Wristen said.
Meanwhile, Mr. DeGenova said he is pressing ahead with his eventual goal of removing all private traffic from Stanley Park. A task force has already been approved to develop a comprehensive long-term plan for alternative crossings between Vancouver and its North Shore.