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I drove through Marrickville last week & saw a new Canary Island Palm. It had been installed in the front garden of Lee’s Learning Centre, a new building & business on Livingstone Road. Marrickville Park with its resplendent Canary Island Palms & the row of these same trees classified by Council as heritage in nearby Graham Avenue off Livingstone Road tie this tree & property in with the local area.
The tree trunk is around 8-metres high & at an average of $1,500 per metre of trunk, plus GST, the owners have added something very nice that benefits the local community & streetscape. This tree has had fronds removed for ease of transport, but new ones will grow in time. Soon this tree will be another local landmark adding to some other spectacular trees in Livingstone Road. It certainly was a smart move for Lee’s Learning Centre in terms of being easily findable. People will refer to the business as the place ‘with the palm in the front garden,’ as it is common to use trees to describe a location.
It’s so good that this tree was given another life & moved to this site. Canary Island Palms can live for 160-200 years so their investment was a wise one.
Community tree preservation groups Save Our Figs Wauchope & Save Our Figs Group have a big fight on their hands with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council who intend to remove 13 Fig trees in the town centre “to prevent future damage to private property & public infrastructure.” The roots of the Fig trees are presenting a trip hazard & 3 residents have complained of damage to their property they say was caused by the trees.
Thing is, the Council have just completed major works on the streets with the trees described as the centerpiece. Importantly, 3 years ago the community fought to retain these trees & won.
Now the threat of litigation has reared its head & if history is anything to go by, a very small number of people are going to get their way & have the trees removed. Council can’t take the risk that people will start litigation in the future.
A couple of days ago I posted that Goondiwindi Regional Council chopped down healthy Fig trees despite community opposition. It’s the same story. Now that the trees are gone, the Council has made the decision to spend $96,000 on floating footpaths. They are doing this now because they, “understand how important these trees are to residents.”
Using floating footpaths means the trees can grow normally. There is no need to cut off or shave down roots, nor cover them in bitumen. Nor will they need to chop the trees down because of a trip hazard or damage to footpaths. Seems like sensible spending to me. Given that any large healthy tree can be worth around $100,000, spending money to keep them is a good economic decision.
The large street trees in the centre of both these towns are what bring beauty & a sense of place. The towns use their street trees as a tourist draw card. The Fig trees also provide a tangible history & are held dear by most of the community.
Take the trees away & you have substantially changed a place. Not only have you removed things that are worth a great deal of money & with 13 Figs we are talking in excess of a million dollars, but their loss will have an impact on spending in the shops. Researchers have concluded 11% more money is spent in shopping areas where there are big healthy shady trees. To their credit Port Macquarie-Hastings Council plans to replace the Figs with 11 advanced Brush Box trees.
My question is why don’t Councils or organizations take pre-emptive action on their big trees when the trees are in areas that could damage property or cause trip hazards? Ultimately it is worth the financial outlay when one considers how much these trees are worth in a monetary sense. Then there are all the other factors to take into consideration, history, place, future, community cohesion (fights like these in small towns could escalate into severe divisions), trust in the Council/organisation & stating the obvious, climate change.
Root barriers can be put in place. Sewerage & water pipes can be replaced with pipes that can’t be invaded by tree roots or re-routed & be done with the problem forever. In Canada, they use a system that allows pipes to be replaced without digging, disturbing or damaging tree roots. They use a water flushing vacuum system to remove the soil from around the roots, pipes or wires, then install the new pipes & put the soil back in.
You don’t even need to put in concrete foundations near a tree when you are building anymore. Again in Canada, they insert giant steel screw piles into the ground that are just as stable as concrete foundations & require no digging.
There is also a high-density plastic grid system that I have seen used in Sydney. Once laid over the ground the grid disperses the weight of vehicles over a larger area. The grid also prevents soil compaction, which can damage roots. Best of all, the grid allows rainwater to permeate the soil, reducing the need for irrigation & improves storm-water management. Ground cover or other plants can be grown in the spaces within the grid.
The grid also prevents soil erosion. I can see these grids used to support riverbanks & to create cement-free car parks. They could also be used to channel water into the ground near a street tree rather than be wasted by pouring down drains. There is no reason why a section of the gutter cannot be a grid.
There is also porous concrete used across City of Sydney & North Sydney Councils. Porous concrete provides a seamless surface allowing people to walk across it, but still captures any rainwater that falls on it, watering the tree.
There are quite a number of beautiful Figs in Marrickville LGA & many of them are planted near buildings. Unfortunately many of these trees live in less than perfect conditions with cement & bitumen almost to the base of their trunk. Many have cars & trucks parked right next to them. As we have seen, it is only a matter of time before branches get gouged or broken off by trucks.
The only reason why money isn’t spent on protecting trees before problems start is that trees are not held in high importance or the Council is so strapped for money that understandably, urban forest issues get moved down the list of priorities.
Many Councils do hold their trees in high esteem & look after them. They use floating footpaths & permeable rubber surfaces or permeable ‘solid’ surfaces. They put garden beds around trees to prevent or limit the amount of vehicles that can park under them. They put ‘no parking’ signs for vehicles over a certain size & weight & they do other things like prune dead branches & normal die back. They probably feed them occasionally as well.
I would do all of the above & if property damage occurred with people saying get rid of the tree/s, I would think it is the community’s & Council’s best interest to fix the damage (within reason, once proof & access has been given to Council) & put things in place to ensure the problem won’t repeat itself. Too many people & future generations miss out for cracks to walls & pipes, both which are easily fixed without costing as high as the value of losing a tree.
Trees are the only things Councils own that increase in value each year.
I have written about clay soils & how they affect buildings at – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/clay-soil/
You can read both stories at the following links -http://www.portnews.com.au/news/local/news/general/lastditch-figs-effort/1874281.aspx
In February 2010 I wrote about the resplendent Morton Bay Fig at St Stephen’s Church in Newtown for Festival of the Trees. See http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/st-stephens-fig/ With this post, I aim to describe the cemetery as I have experienced it. To separate the graveyard & the trees is almost impossible as they intermingle & both are quite beautiful.
Once you walk past the massive Morton Bay Fig planted in 1848 & the 2 large clumps of Giant Bamboo, also planted more than a century ago, you follow the dirt road that takes you to the heritage protected Gothic Revivalist St Stephen’s Church & immediately into the cemetery. The graveyard itself starts within metres of the entrance on both sides of the dirt road.
The current cemetery is about 4 acres (1.6 hectares) & is bordered by a high sandstone wall. The land, 4 kms from Sydney’s CBD, purchased by a group of businessmen in 1845, was originally 12.5 acres (4.8 hectares). It was the main cemetery for Sydney until it closed in 1867 because it was full. Even so, a few people were buried here up to the 1940s. All up, about 18,000 people were buried here, though the true numbers are not known because many of the graves hold multiple people, all buried on top of each other. A significant number of the famous are buried here.
In 1948 Marrickville Council reclaimed ¾ of the cemetery land to create a public park & Camperdown Memorial Rest Park opened in 1951. The headstones and other fixtures were brought inside the cemetery wall & I guess the thousands of interred are still under the park while the dog walkers & others play overhead. Rather a gruesome thought, though I know others who question why I think like this.
The tombstones from outside the new boundary were removed & placed inside & against the sandstone perimeter wall & fixed in place with steel nails. Unfortunately, the nails have rusted over time & split many of the headstones. Most of the graves & headstones are made of Sydney sandstone & have seriously weathered over the years.
The graves surround the church, then spread out through the cemetery. I have not been on one of the regular guided tours, so I do not know much about the individuals who were buried here. Directly behind the church is an impressive grave in the style of a boat. My favourite tombstone is a tree stump made of cement. Over time it has weathered & appears real until you look closely.
The cemetery is also special because of the trees. There are Brush Boxes (Lophostemon confertus) planted in the 1960s, Blackwoods (Acacia melanoxylon), a Lemon Scented Gum (Corymbia citriodora), a Port Jackson Cypress Pine (Callitris rhomboidea), 2 African Olive trees (Olea africana), a number of Melaleucas, a grove of Chinese Elms (Ulmus parvifolia), Canary Island Palms (Phoenix canariensis), a Morton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla), a few Birch trees & a number of Camphor Laurel trees (Cinnamomum camphora). There are also 2 clumps of Giant Bamboo.
If I were to take you on a tour, we would walk down the dirt road passing many graves & a row of Canary Island Palms planted in the 1930s. There is a circular road behind St Stephen’s Church & many of the gravestones in this area are impressive.
From here we would walk into the small area beside the church on the other side. It is somewhat off the path, but it is well worth it because of the enormous Oak that spreads its boughs here. The last time we went it had been raining heavily & the ground was very boggy, which I think would discourage people from going in this direction. In this area the gravestones are sparser, though I would guess there are people buried in unmarked graves. The Oak is magnificent & would be one of the trees that were planted in 1848. The Oak tree spills out claiming a lot of space & I can easily imagine the kids playing on it after church a century ago.
A few metres away a big tree has recently been chopped down. Judging by the side of the stump, I imagine this tree also filled the space now open to the sky. Interestingly, the stump is one of many which is directly next to a grave & over time it has dislodged part of the stone. I would guess there was a tradition of planting a tree where a loved one was buried.
The cemetery did have many Peace roses, but Marrickville Council removed them because it was felt they required too much care. I found one old rose bush planted in a grave, so perhaps it is a remanent of the original roses.
Moving away from this area & rejoining the dirt path that meanders around the left side of the cemetery following the sandstone fence, you pass very old Brush Box & Camphor Laurel trees. Their trunks are massive & they have been left to grow naturally with minimal pruning.
A special site is on your left where those from the shipwrecked Dunbar & the Catherine Adamson in 1857 are buried. I know it is important because these graves are painted white & are well looked after. The dirt path becomes a track & takes you to & along the back wall of the cemetery. Tombstone after tombstone are lined up against the perimeter wall. Some are detailed & very beautiful while others are simple affairs.
The trees in this area are different. They too are tall, but their branches sweep just above the ground & in some cases require you to dodge & walk around them. Some of the graves here are different as well, being just headstones & you have to assess where the grave would be if you don’t want to tread on them.
This part of the cemetery has remanent Kangaroo grass (Themeda triandra) left over from when the whole area to Botany Bay was covered with this species of grass. It’s nice to look at & I can easily imagine following the walking trail to the sea over miles of this soft grass that would have caught the light & changed colour throughout the day.
To your right is the centre of the cemetery & my favourite area. It has no path, is dense with tall trees & you cannot see the church. Apart from the odd gravestone, you could be anywhere. The grass is long & many of the graves are overgrown. There is a birch wood covering a few metres that have sprung up naturally after the initial trees were planted. There is also some Wattle, a very large a Port Jackson Cypress Pine, more Oak trees planted in 1848 & a grove of Chinese Elms.
In the middle is an old Oak stump that stands about 6 feet high with a natural hollow that ascends to the top. Here I found a piece of hand-made jewellery that has been carefully placed inside. It made me think that I had come across some sort of wishing ritual, so apart from taking a photo, I did not touch it.
One branch from this tree has been left on the ground. It had the most amazing pattern & to me looked almost like rivers taken from space. Interesting that pictures of earth from space can look similar to what we can see in nature & even the same as inside the human body. The patterns repeat again & again. I hope the church authorities leave this stump as it is very beautiful.
Leaving the centre of the cemetery, you return to the path, which widens & takes you back to St Stephen’s Church. Here there are many other tall & old trees, mostly Brush Box.
The most filigree tomb is right in the front left-hand corner behind the Giant Bamboo. Here 4 figures act as columns for a roof structure. Each figure looks different & holds something different. We did not notice the bees that started to gather & had to run away because these bees were quite territorial. There are at least 2 hives situated at the back of the Lodge located a few metres away.
Once you pass the Giant Bamboo & the massive Morton Bay Fig, you return to the front gate & are in the heart of busy Newtown with it’s tiny terraces & narrow streets. If you follow the perimeter fence to your left, you come to Camperdown Memorial Rest Park where a few of the original Brush Box trees can be seen at the edge of the park. This much-used park is where the cemetery was originally, so remember to be quiet. There are people sleeping under your feet.
NOTE: I have tried to create a visual walking tour of Camperdown Cemetery. The photos are labelled 1, 2 , 3 etc & they follow the path as I walked it. You can view this at the following link – http://www.flickr.com/photos/savingourtrees/sets/72157623601096089/detail/