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I was invited by Marrickville Greens to go to watch the magnificent Lemon Scented Gum street tree in Cambridge Street Stanmore being chopped down by Marrickville Council.  For various reasons I declined, but I know I did not want this image imprinted on my memory.  I have come to love this tree & I am distressed about its loss.  To me, it was no ordinary street tree.

Marrickville LGA has some gorgeous trees, mostly in parks, though there are also good ones that are street trees.  However, we have thousands of butchered, stumpy & not good-looking street trees all over the LGA & it is noticeable if you look.

I think many of us have become desensitised to the ugliness of our street trees because their disintegration happens over time & we just get used to seeing them in this poor condition.  Leave the LGA & you immediately notice the differences.

This magnificent street tree is gone

The Lemon Scented Gum in Cambridge Street Stanmore was one of the better-looking street trees in the whole LGA & this is not an exaggeration.  Do I think this because I like Gums?  Yes & no.  I do like Gum trees, but I also like most other trees.  I am an all-round tree lover though I admit to preferring tall stature trees & especially trees which flower & provide food for insects, birds & animals.

I think it is necessary in an urban environment to think about wildlife when choosing trees to plant.  I also think we have a duty to provide food for these creatures who are losing more & more food resources every year.  If you don’t believe me, put out a birdbath in a safe place in your garden & watch how long it takes for birds to arrive.  They are short of water as well.  When we built a fishpond, the rare frogs of the area arrived within 2 days & there wasn’t other ponds around.  Where did they come from, we wondered.  If you plant flowering trees & shrubs that feed birds, they will come in droves & the air will be filled with birdcalls.

So for a tree of this magnitude to be cut down seems ridiculous to me.  The tree provided refuge for both wildlife & humans because it was a flowering native tree & its canopy significantly cooled the air in the street.  This is not a feeling I am used to when I walk the streets of my local area.  Mostly I cannot walk during the day because the streets are so hot with the heat reflected by the road & concrete.  I believe that as temperatures rise due to global warming, the heat island effect is going to get worse & we are going to bake.  City of Sydney Council recognises this & intends to plant 10,000 more trees in the CBD this year to counteract the heat.

I am aware the residents who wanted the tree removed said it was causing cracking to their house & Council felt hamstrung because of the potential of litigation.  However, because we do not have a Significant Tree Register, our public trees are vulnerable.  Cracking to houses can always be repaired & it is something we should expect when we live in 100 year old houses, which are built on clay soils & with poor quality mortar.  In fact, even renovated houses in the Inner West need regular work as they are always deteriorating.  It comes with the territory. That’s why many people prefer to live in modern units or project homes that are built on cement slabs.  As a norm, tree roots are not strong enough to lift a concrete slab.

Ordinary street in Chatswood with multiple large street trees- a very different outlook to our LGA

When we respect trees & fully appreciate their positive impact on our lives &  vital role in our civilization’s existence, if atmospheric levels of CO2 continue to rise as expected, then we will do everything we can to keep our mature trees that sequester large amounts of CO2.

The removal of this tree affects the whole community, not just the residents of Cambridge Street.  First is it one tree, then another tree & so on.  Before we know it, the whole streetscape is changed & not for the better.  It took 40 years for that tree to grow a 2.5 metre girth & it had at least another 60 years of life left in it.  Eucalypts often live 100 years or more.  All it took was 4 ½ hours for it to be gone.

The Marrickville Greens tried to get a stay of execution to try other methods to repair the cracking & fix the problem at ground level. The Labor & Independent Councillors had to power to grant this so that amelioration could be tried to give the tree a chance to be saved.  I would have conceded defeat if all avenues had been tried & agreed the tree needed be removed, but these avenues weren’t given a chance.   I am sure the Greens feel the same as I do.  This tree was also worth a lot of money to the community & especially to Cambridge Street.  Better to sell a house before a tree is cut down than after.

Our tree assets get voted out because of concrete, their particular species, because they are old, because, because, because.  I have not yet seen tree saving strategies voted in during council meetings, only the opposite.  Trees are seen as a nuisance & a liability.  The reality is: not having trees is a liability.

I will work with Labor & the Independents as well as the Greens if they are pro-trees & the greening of Marrickville LGA.  However, since I have started, I have noticed that support for my vision comes from the Greens & not from Labor or the Independents.  To be fair, Labor did reverse their decision over the Mackey Park Figs, but not until after a community protest of 300 people & an even larger petition.

Once again, regarding the Cambridge Street tree, the Greens voted to keep the tree.  Once again, the vote to remove the tree comes from the other counsellors.  Is it a pattern? Saving Our Trees hasn’t been alive long enough to be able to answer this question.

Frankly I was shocked when I read on the Greens website that:  Independent Councillor Dimitrios Thanos recently emailed Councillors & staff saying: “I’ll grab my chainsaw & meet the staff down there on the appointed day.” I just know he & I are not on the same page when it comes to trees.

Getting back to my intro, I didn’t want to go & watch the ‘Elle McPherson of trees’ be chopped down, but the Marrickville Greens did witness this.  You can read their posts about this tree –http://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/risk-averse-council-condemns-stanmore’s-biggest-eucalypt-to-the-chainsaw/ & you can also view 2 photos taken today by the Greens at – http://yfrog.com/37y6 & http://yfrog.com/1ehcezj &

http://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/stanmores-largest-gum-tree-turned-into-woodchip/

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The details of Mackey Park Revised Masterplan arrived.  Marrickville Council listened to the community & made a number of significant changes from their original plan for the upgrade of Mackey Park.  The new plan will cost $3.1 million, up on the original Federal grant of $2,265,000.  The revised Master Plan is as follows:

  • The 2 Hills Fig trees will be retained. 1 tree will be pruned to remove a large unsafe branch & both trees will be pruned as required to install & maintain field lighting.
  • 4 Carob trees will be removed.  1 Carob tree is in the outer area of a cricket oval.  The remaining 3 Carob’s will be removed to leave space for a potential pedestrian path (no lighting) to connect with the Cook River pathway.  Saving Our Trees did want to retain these trees, but Council thought these trees were old, not in good condition & the community seemed unconcerned about them.
  • Revegetation with floodplain forest & woodland tree species is proposed in the future for 7 areas around the perimeter of Mackey Park.
  • There will be 2 full-sized & 2 half-sized soccer fields.
  • The central pedestrian path is to be removed for a full-size cricket oval with both a junior & senior pitch.
  • The entrance to the park opposite Tempe Railway Station will be retained.
  • A pedestrian pathway with lighting will travel from the current entrance next to the clubhouse & follow the embankment along the north-east side of the park below Richardsons Crescent all the way to the current entrance opposite Tempe Railway Station.
  • A second pedestrian pathway will travel from the clubhouse alongside the playground before reaching the current entrance at the bottom of Premier Street.  This pathway will not have lighting.  It will also have 900mm fencing along 1 side to ‘reduce informal pedestrian access across the field area to the Richardsons Crescent entry.’ In other words, to prevent pedestrians walking straight through the park to & from Tempe Railway Station.  The field is to be monitored to check for a walker’s track on the turf surface, so remember to tip-toe.  If Council finds evidence that this is happening, they intend to erect more fencing & ‘other measures.’
  • A new footpath will be built outside the entrance next to the clubhouse which will head towards Carrington Road and travel to a pedestrian crossing opposite the Choice building near Cary Street.
  • The water tank will be placed in the current Sydney Water site near the playground or, if this is unsuitable in the area north of the Concordia Club.
  • Council is attempting to obtain further funding which will allow them to rebuild the Clubhouse rather than renovate.
  • Subsurface drainage & irrigation systems will be installed under the sporting fields.
  • The children’s playground will be refurbished & new shade trees will be planted.
  • The soil of the playground & 1 other pollution ‘hotspot’ of Mackey Park will be decontaminated.
  • The real surprise is the proposed establishing of a 2,200m2 wetland in the lower west side of the park between the Fig trees, around the soccer oval & almost to the tree area near the Premier Street entrance.  This will be planted with Cooks River Freshwater & Brackish Swamp & Floodplain Forest & Woodland species.  I was told that this wetland will ‘polish’ any ground pollutants before they enter into the Cooks River.  It will also provide greater biodiversity & much-needed habitat for birds, animals & insects.  Personally, I am very pleased about this.  There are however, 9 or 10 mature trees in this area.  Will they need to be removed?

All up, the new plans look fabulous.  The sporting clubs get both what they want & what they need to carry on providing top level sporting facilities to players.  If the Clubhouse is rebuilt, this will be even better.  Mackey Park will be used all year round for sports. Pedestrians will not have to walk along the very busy & to my mind, dangerous Richardsons Crescent.  The ground pollutants, which no-one knew about, will be removed helping the Cooks River immensely.  The park will be lit at night making it usable & safe for the community.  A double-decker sized water tank will not mar the entrance to Mackey Park.

Mackey Park Fig Trees

And the Figs … the 2 gorgeous 25 metre high Fig trees whose proposed removal started this whole community campaign will get to live on & provide a sense of continuity & history for the community.  The hundreds of birds & insects who call these Figs home will also be happy.  Caloo! Caloo!

–> To the community who attended the community consultation & council meetings, wrote submissions, wrote to & rang Councillors, spoke at the Council meeting, allowed their speeches to be published on this site, spoke to the media & had their photo taken, printed the petition & posters for free, letter-dropped, signed petitions, offered to put the petition in their shops, alerted me to other issues about the plans, told me their stories about the Fig trees, helped organise the Save the Mackey Park Fig Trees Party, donated paper, chalk, colouring pencils & boards for the children to draw on, donated their time & talent to entertain us at that party, came to the party (even from adjoining suburbs because they cared about these particular Figs trees), to the Councillors who attended the party, to those Councillors who wrote saying they wanted to, but work commitments prevented them from attending, to the kids who made signs & held them up at the Council meeting,  who drew pictures of the trees & asked that the trees be retained for their future & their own childrens future & to both the Inner West Courier & the Valley Times who covered the campaign from beginning to end & to the Greens Councillors who supported saving the Figs right from the start, to the Labor Councillors who listened to the community & reversed their original decision to instead support the retaining of the Figs & to the many people who wrote & approached me in person to offer your support & opinions – I thank you all.  (Phew!  Have I forgotten anyone?)

300 people came to the 'party' to save these 2 beautiful trees

Part of the 300 strong crowd who came to save the Figs

Without your involvement, these 2 beautiful & as one young girl said to me, “iconic” trees would be cut down by now & our community would be worse off for it.

It was a remarkably peaceful campaign, which was very pleasing.  I received only 1 accusatory e-mail.  It showed that the community was united in this issue & that we could support the needs of others in our endeavour to save the trees.

Thank you also to Marrickville Council & to the Councillors who listened to the community taking our objections & suggestions seriously. I was surprised whilst reading the package of the Revised Plans for Mackey Park, just how many stakeholders & advisors were involved in the process.  It is a fabulous result & now with the new plans, all sectors of the community will have a beautiful & useful park without losing community amenity.  And the trees live on!

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