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Main sections...

Why revegetate the land?
What has been planted?
If you'd like to help
Photos at the start
Setting the scene
Planting technique used
Who 'owns' the land?
Progress of the project
Updates
Future work
Correspondence
Related pages
Index

Crystal Brook 'Central Park' revegetation

I have previously called this land the 'railway reserve'. It should have a more appropriate name than that, I've decided to use 'Central Park' until something better comes along.

This land is in the middle of Crystal Brook, it has been largely neglected, except for an annual slashing, for the forty plus years that my wife and I have lived in the town.

About thirty years ago, when I was planting trees along local roadsides and at Bowman Park, I tried to get permission from the relevant authorities to plant trees on the land to improve its appearance; I got nowhere. In the spring of 2019 I started planting trees on the land for the environment, for the future of the planet and for the people of Crystal Brook. If others want to help they will be very welcome.

In mid 2019 the land was covered in grass, soursob, marshmallow, silverleaf nightshade with scattered Acacia victoriae, pepper trees, African box thorns, a few artichoke thistles and there were lots of caltrop seeds about. There were a few desirable native grasses and indigenous trees including kurrajongs (Brachychiton populneus), Senna artemisioides and Broughton willow wattles (Acacia salicena). Someone had planted a few Acacia pendula several years earlier near one of the footpaths leading to the underpass; they were doing quite well.

This page was started 2019/06/27, modified 2020/02/05
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©
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Much more beautification and improvement could be done in and around Crystal Brook (including Bowman Park) if the proposed Crystal Brook Energy Park is built and Neoen provides the promised $80,000 per annum community fund. That is just one of the reasons I support the energy park.

Let's not just talk about it; let's do it!
That applies to action on climate change as well as revegetation/beautification

 
A Google Earth photo of the land
Google Earth

Crystal Brook's Central Park (aka the 'railway reserve' land) that this page is about is the broad strip of mostly bare land running diagonally from lower right to upper left in this image. It does not include the bare land SE of the silos. The area involved is about 3.8 ha.

The trees at the lower right (where 'Darbon Terrace' is printed) are pines, the more patchy trees on the same side of the railway land toward 'Frith Rd' are mostly Eucalypts (many of which I planted twenty or more years ago), The trees near the silos, at upper left, were planted by the company that ran the silos several decades ago.

Adjacent to Railway Terrace at the lower right is the recreational vehicle free camping area with mainly Eucalypt trees. To the upper left from the Post Office (marked with a letter symbol) is a strip of land largely planted with native trees as a community project in or about 1992 (as I recall).

The railway runs along the length of the strip between Railway Terrace and the silos.

A ramp down to a pedestrian subway that passes beneath the railway line can be seen below the Post Office.



Why revegetate Central Park?

 

Why should we not revegetate the land?

DPTI tells me that I "must not access the rail reserve without a permit issued by the department"; no justification given.

Accessing the reserve is a victimless crime. The suggestion that it may be contaminated has not, so far as I know, ever been substantiated or quantified. Even if it is contaminated, what harm is planting trees going to do that outweighs the good? What harm will anybody who accesses the land come to?

Finally, what right does DPTI have to tell the people of Crystal Brook that they may not enter this land, that is owned by the people of Australia?

Land is one of the world's great assets, there is not enough of it to go around.

Trees provide services to the planet, not least in removing carbon dioxide from the air. The excessive amount of carbon dioxide in the air is the primary cause of ocean acidification and one of the main causes of climate change.

Trees will suppress the growth of weeds, such as the existing silver leaf nightshade, wild oats and sour-sob, by competition. By suppressing the weeds, particularly the wild oats, the trees will reduce fire hazard.

Adding desirable trees, and clearing up the present weed trees, will make the land, and therefore the town, much more attractive.

Surely the people of Crystal Brook have a right to improve the appearance and utility of this patch of previously neglected land in the middle of our town.

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What has been planted?

The species that Trees for Life had available in June 2019 that were suitable and that I bought were:
  • Acacia hakeoides (hakea wattle), A oswaldii (umbrella wattle);
  • Allocasuarina verticillata (drooping sheoak);
  • Melaleuca lanceolata (dry land tea tree).
There was a total of about 300 seedlings in the Trees for Life lot. By 8th September all but about 30 had been planted.

The plants that I purchased from Ian Roberts in early September and planted by 8th September were:

  • Chamelecaucium floriferum × 2
  • Eremophila ‘Beryls blue’, christopheri, glabra, clarkei × 2, nivea oppositifolia, recurve, platycalyx, pterocarpa, purpurescens;
  • Eucalyptus annettae × 2, arborella, brandiana, deflexa × 3, caesia, erythrocorys, luculenta, nutans × 2, petiolaris × 2, pimpiniana × 3, preissiana × 2, shirleyi, stoataptera, stoatei, tetraptera, thamnoides, woodwardii, yumbarrana;
  • Hakea multilineata, francisiana × 2, grammatophylla, buccalenta;
  • Mackinlayi spatulata × 3;
  • Thimasia purpurea;
  • Phebalium glandulosum;
  • Westringia fruiticosa × 2.

Suggestions on what to plant where are welcome

In my roadside plantings I've mostly concentrated on local native species. As this is more a park than a roadside I would think a wider range of species might be appropriate; perhaps even a modest arboretum.

But my time and energy are probably the biggest limiting factors.

I've very happy to listen to suggestions, but I'd also say that if you want to have input in what is done you might also help with the work.

How does planting Central Park compare to a wind farm in terms of climate change impact?

Supposing 500 small trees or large shrubs are planted and suppose that each takes 250 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for the life of the plants (or course when they die and rot that CO2 will go back into the atmosphere). That would be 125 tonnes of CO2 taken from the atmosphere over a growing period of, say, 25 years, so 5 tonnes of CO2 per year.

On the other hand, if the Crystal Brook Energy Park is built it will prevent about 600,000 tonnes of CO2 per year from entering the atmosphere, and that CO2 would not enter the atmosphere at all!

That is just one of the reasons why I find the selfishness of those who oppose wind power developments depressing.

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If you'd like to help

Help with the project would be welcome; contact David Clarke on 0400 256 125.

Weed control

There will always be weeds. The weeds close to the newly planted seedlings will slow their development and compete with them. Any help with weeding will be appreciated.

Watering

All the seedlings would benefit from some watering during their first summer.

General tidying up

There are a number of dead or half dead Acacia victoriae that could be cleaned up.





Photos of the vegetation at the beginning of the work

At start

An untidy group of Acacia victoriae on the right, a half-dead Acacia victoriae on the left, the noxious weed silver-leaf nightshade in the left foreground.


At start 1

Dead, or mostly dead Acacia victoriae, silverleaf nightshade beneath.


At start 2

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Dead Acacia victoriae on the left, introduced Peruvian pepper trees (Schinus molle) in the right background.

At start 3

A bad infestation of silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium; the lower part of a pepper tree is visible in the upper right of the photo.


At start 4

Pepper trees and African box thorn, Lycium ferocissimum Miers


At start 5

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A dead Acacia victoriae; other Acacia victoriae in the background. The trees on the right are pines on the roadside, not in Central Park.

At start 6

A dead Acacia victoriae and mostly other Acacia victoriae in the foreground. I planted many of the gum trees in the background on the side of Darbon Terrace (they are not in the railway land) many years ago.


At start 7

A dead Acacia victoriae, near-dead trees on the left


Possible indication of phytotoxicity in the soil

At start 8

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Unsightly dead Eucalypt trees. The dead and dying Acacia victoriae shown in other photos on this page are typical of the species, which has a fairly short life and takes a long time to rot away once dead. However, these dead Eucalypts may well be due to phytotoxicity (toxicity impacting plants) in the soil. They are the only indication in the vegetation that suggested any soil toxicity to me.

Behind the dead tree on the right is one of the two kurrajongs (Brachychiton populneus) on the land. Behind the dead trees on the left there are some Broughton willow wattles (Acacia salicena). The railway can be seen on the left and on the right are some pines on the side of Darbon Terrace.



At start 9

Artichoke thistle (Cynara cardunculus) in the foreground, Acacia victoriae in the background
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Setting the scene

Predecessors

Before I started planting trees on the roadsides around Crystal Brook, about 40 years ago, there were at least three others doing what they could to revegetate the Crystal Brook area: Roly Nicholls, Col Matheson and Ken Grossman. Unfortunately I believe that they have all since died. I hope and believe that the present project would meet with their approval were they still alive.

Unlikely to receive support from authorities

I tried to get permission to revegetate the land about 25 years ago, I think it was the railway authority that I had to contact then, and was refused.

 
Roadside vegetation destruction
Excessive and unnecessary destruction of valuable remnant native roadside vegetation by the Pirie Regional Council, 2016
I don't expect support in this project from the Port Pirie Regional Council based on my experience with them.

In summary they seem to have very little ambition to look after the local or global environment. The other two Iron Triangle city councils, Port Augusta and Whyalla, are much more environmentally progressive and supportive.

The state government would probably cite contaminated soil in Central Park as a reason to do nothing, although so far as I know there is little, if any, evidence that there is any more contamination than on any railway land in the state.

I informed the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) of what I was doing on 2019/07/29. (See also Who owns the land?, on this page.)

The need for more vegetation

Trees and shrubs absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We should be growing them wherever we possibly can for this reason alone, but they can improve the aesthetics of our towns at the same time.

A word on Acacia victoriae

Acacia victoriae is a native species that is common in the Crystal Brook region including on Central Park. Unfortunately it is probably about the most ugly of all the native Acacia species; no one likes it much.




Planting technique used

The technique that I've found, over many years of tree planting, works well is to loosen the earth in a hole about 40cm in diameter to the depth of a digging fork. To then plant the seedling, saturate the loose soil with water (about 10-12 litres) and then spread about 20 litres of mulch to completely cover the loosened soil right up to the seedling. If I have a tree-guard available I will also use that, especially in the case of the species that are palatable to grazing animals (Allocasuarinas, Casuarinas, Callitris).

No further watering may be necessary, but in the increasingly long and hot summers that we are getting with climate change at least one or two waterings, with another 10 litres or so, through the first spring and summer would be advisable.

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Who 'owns' the land?

I have called the land the 'railway reserve' because that is probably how most of the people of Crystal Brook would know it. It should have another name, I've suggested 'Central Park' as a temporary name.

It seems that the land of Central Park is 'owned by' the state; it is Crown Land. The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) have some responsibility for the bulk of the land. I believe that the railway authority is responsible for the land within five metres of the lines.

Surely the people of Crystal Brook have more right than anyone else to the use of the land. If DPTI was to deny the people of Crystal Brook access to this land I believe it would be a major injustice. (I've written some thoughts on land ownership elsewhere in these pages.)

Crystal Brook peoples' rights

As of the time of writing, December 2019, the land is fenced but the fences are dilapidated. That's fine, the people of Crystal Brook should have free access to the land.

As mentioned elsewhere on this page, the land has until recently been a wasteland; people had little reason to want to go onto it, although many walked over it. If it is improved, as it should be and as I am working toward, the people of Crystal Brook may well want to go into it, and why shouldn't they?

Other parties interested in the land

The Crystal Brook Men's Shed group were, for a time, hoping to build a new Men's Shed on the land, but by mid 2019 they had found it more practical to develop in an area elsewhere in the town.

The Crystal Brook Community Association (CBCA) have hopes of developing the land as of mid 2019. I didn't know anything about this until 2019/07/02. My revegetation work should fit in well with the CBCA's proposal.

The revegetation work that I am doing costs the community nothing, but if the CBCA wants to get its far more ambitious project up they would be well advised to fully support the proposed Crystal Brook Energy Park so that a portion of the promised $80,000 annual community fund will be accessible for projects like this.

For myself, I would welcome others taking part in improving the land for the sake of the people of Crystal Brook. At the time of writing I was 73 and not particularly physically fit; I can only do so much, and I also want to continue my involvement with Bowman Park.

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Progress of the revegetation project

June 2019

As of 2019/06/28 I had sprayed more than 200 spots in readiness for planting and had ordered about 300 tube-stock from Trees for Life. The species that Trees for Life had available that were suitable and that I ordered were hakea wattle (Acacia hakeoides), drooping sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata), dry land tea tree (Melaleuca lanceolata), and umbrella wattle (Acacia oswaldii).

The artichoke thistles had been sprayed as well as a couple of the smaller box thorns.

July

Mulch

Mulch pile

Tree seedlings have a far better chance of survival is they are surrounded with mulch which both conserves soil moisture and impedes weed growth. I was trying to think of where I might get some mulch and finally remembered that 25 or more years ago there was a pile of mulch on the outskirts of Crystal Brook. So I went back to where I remembered it and found it (or its successor) still present. The pile contains probably about 100 times as much as I need for this job.

The mulch pile will also be useful for Bowman Park old homestead garden, where I have been hard pressed to find enough mulch for most of the year that I've been involved.

Photo 2019/07/03



The first plantings

 
First seedling
The first seedling planted, 2019/07/03

The Melaleuca lanciolata seedling in the photo on the right is the first that I planted in the railway lands.
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First seedling
A small start, three seedlings in, mulched and with tree guards, 2019/07/03.

The brown patches are areas that have been sprayed with glyphosate to kill the weeds in preparation for planting.

The first ten centimetres or so of the soil is very stony in much of the area, but beneath this the soil is often quite good quality. There is some sort of hard-pan at depth in some places.

It will take me quite a long time to plant the remaining seedlings and they will need care and attention to control weeds and watering will be needed through the first summer.

2019/07/10

About 80 trees have been planted; I got about 20 in on my best day.

2019/07/29

About 170 of the 300 trees that I got from Trees for Life had been planted. Three have been pulled out by someone. Thanks to Lynton Vonow for his help on on the weekend of 27-28th.
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August 2019

2019/08/21

About 250 trees planted. Most seedling trees are doing well. A couple more have been pulled out by a vandal; this is probably to be expected in a public area such as this.

Flack from Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure

The local DPTI (commonly called 'dipty') representative told me that the 250 trees I've planted may well be slashed down. He said that the local office had no control, it was all 'Head Office'. He said that I mustn't plant trees without permission, but of course they have refused permission, so what's the point in asking.

When I asked the name of the local representative he told me 'Simon' (if my memory serves), no surname given. I haven't been told who in Head Office has been involved.

I have no intention of stopping, and have been interviewed on the subject on ABC radio 891, have written a letter to the Editor of the Plains Producer newspaper and emailed MP for Frome Geoff Brock on the matter.





September 2019

 
SE end of Central Park
Slashed block
Photo taken 2019/09/23
On the 3rd I bought some of the more showy native species from Ian Roberts in Blyth and plant in Central Park. I watered all the seedlings around 13th to 15th. By 20th of September the seedlings from Ian Roberts and all the remaining seedlings of the Trees for Life lot had been planted.

I tested the soil pH at the SE end of the reserve and found it to be 9; highly alkaline.

Also on the 3rd I noted that the barley grass in the reserve had dried, the wild oats was ripening and the soursobs were stressed.

Slashing weeds

Slashing commenced on 2019/09/20. The south-eastern end of the area had been slashed by the end of the day.

The photo on the right was taken a couple of days after the slashing was done on the south-eastern half of the block.

Click on the image to see it in higher definition.


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December 2019

The trees were watered between 3rd and 5th of December. A few had died, more had been pulled out by one or more vandals, but most were doing well. I estimated that around 300 of the originally planted 350 were still alive.

A path from the underpass to Darbon Terrace was being concreted at the time of the watering.





February 2020

 
Eucalyptus caesia
Tree 1
Photo taken 2020/02/08
 
Eucalyptus nutans
Tree 2
Photo taken 2020/02/08
 
Melaleuca lanceolata
Tree 3
Photo taken 2020/02/08
The seedlings were watered (about 5 litres on each seedling) around 2020/01/22, a total of something like 1.8 kL. I estimated that 85% of the seedlings that I saw were still alive; a good result considering the terrible weather over the preceding month.

On 2020/02/01 60 mm of rain fell. This amounted to about 2,280 kL over the whole of the Central Park; 60 L on each square metre. If you estimate the root spread of the seedlings to be a square 500 mm on a side (or a circle of 300 mm radius), this quarter of a square metre would have received 15 L from the rain, or about three times as much water as I gave them a week or so earlier. And of course the subsoil moisture further away would encourage root growth over the following months.

The photos on the right show three of the more advanced of the trees in early February.

Weeds

On 2020/02/07 I noticed that the rain had caused the germination and/or growth of a great many caltrop plants and brought up rather less, but still substantial numbers, of silver leaf nightshade plants. I sprayed these weeds over a couple of days using about 100 litres of herbicide.

One of the keys to seedling survival is weed control. If weeds are not controlled they are very efficient at steeling water from the seedlings. If they are controlled then much of the water from a substantial rain such as that of 1st February will remain in the subsoil and be available for the seedlings for a long time.

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March 2020

 
Fairy ring
In early March most of the plants in Central Park were still doing very well. The boost they received from the early February rain has dome them a lot of good.

Caltrop fairy ring; photo on the right

As mentioned above, 60 mm of rain fell at the beginning of February and this brought up a big crop of weeds (as well as giving the desirable plants a valuable boost).

I had sprayed a circle around the plants to kill nearby weeds in early February, hence the mainly bare ground within about a metre of the central plant in the photo. Killing the weeds conserved the soil moisture in the area near the plant.

My theory to explain the 'fairy ring' is that the caltrop outside of the circle has used up all the available soil moisture and died, the ring itself has had access to the damper soil in the central circle so had not yet died. This seems to me to demonstrate the effectiveness of spraying weeds to conserve soil moisture.

In the minute after taking this photo I sprayed the ring with herbicide.

Photo taken 2020/03/04.

The clumps in the background are native grasses.

I sprayed most of the weeds near the plants again at this time, using about 35 litres of herbicide.






Future work

Intended planting

In the longer term I'd like to plant the following:
  • Acacia pendula, weeping myall, there are quite a few beautiful specimens around CB;
  • Alyogyne huegelii, native hibiscus, with a show of large blue flowers that last a long time, proven to do well at Bowman Park.
  • Brachychiton acerifolius, Illawarra Flame Tree (there is a beautiful specimen of this in the CB Showgrounds; for more information on the species see Climate Watch;
  • Callistemon species, including Gawler hybrid;
  • Eremophila species/
  • Eucalyptus erythrocorys, Red-capped gum, which, as the name implies, have large bright red caps on the gum-nuts, as well as large bright yellow flowers;
  • E. caesia, which seems to have been very little grown in Crystal Brook but grows well on my property at Armagh. It has a beautiful form and large bright red flowers/
  • E. woodwardii has large yellow flowers and has also been proven to do well in and around Crystal Brook/
  • Grevillea species including robusta;
  • Templetonia retusa, cocky's tongue;
All these species should tolerate the highly alkaline soils of Central Park.

The cost of the plants will be significant and possibly beyond my means; between June and early September I have spent close to a thousand dollars on seedlings and equipment for the Central Park and Bowman Park projects.

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Correspondence

The correspondence is in chronological order.

2019/09/12

I wrote to Stephan Knoll, Minister of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) on the matter and received the following on 2019/09/12:
"The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (the department) appreciates your interest in improving the area and generally supports beautification through the appropriate engagement and approval processes. Due to historical site practices within railyards, various herbicides and chemicals are likely to have been used on the land. Therefore, soil should not be disturbed without appropriate assessments being undertaken to inform the processes to manage safe and successful planting onsite.

In order to properly explore the option of planting trees on Lot 1 Darbon Terrace, the recommended course of action would be to undertake an environmental assessment to determine safety to human and plant health of prevailing soil conditions. By way of example, the use of Personal Protective Equipment whilst planting may be a potential recommendation of such a report.

Your enquiry has been forwarded to the department's Manager Portfolio Assets Rail, Mr Peter Kapiris, who will contact you in due course to discuss the possibility of beautifying this location and the potential costs and appropriate process involved."
The only indication that I could see of phytotoxicity (toxicity affecting plants) was in the three dead Eucalypts, mentioned elsewhere on this page. The Department had previously been contacted by the Crystal Brook Community Committee who had been told that an environmental assessment would cost them $15,000 dollars; money that was not available. Other railway land in the Mid North has been returned to native vegetation without problems from toxins.

By later in September I'd had several communications with Mr Kapiris and he had been quite cooperative.

2019/12/09

 

Pirie Regional Council

I inquired by email of the Pirie Regional Council on 2019/12/04. By 10th December I had not received a reply. On that date I sent another email to the Council's general address and to Mayor Leon Stephens' email address asking again for Council's stance on the revegetation and the use of the land.
I emailed Peter Kapiris of the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) on 2019/12/04:
"G'day again Peter;

Most of the trees I've planted on the land near the railway are doing well. I've just about finished another round of watering. A few have died, rather more have been pulled out by a vandal, but most are fine.

I see that one of the paths from the railway underpass is being concreted. I inquired at the Crystal Brook office of the Pirie Regional Council for details of any plan, but the lady there couldn't tell me anything. (At least one of the trucks on site had Council's logo on its door.)

A neighbour told me that he had heard that the land is to be entirely fenced. This concerns me. I hope that whoever is involved is not planning to exclude the people of Crystal Brook from what should rightly be their land.

Can you tell me anything about any plans that DPTI has regarding the immediate future of the land please?

Regards, Dave Clarke"


On 2019/12/09 I received the following reply:
"Hello David

My colleague Rachael Hryciuk is assisting me with this enquiry and, we will revert to you in due course.

As previously advised, you must not access the rail reserve without a permit issued by the department.

Regards, Peter"


Mr Kapiris rang the next day and told me that he knew of no plan to fence the land.
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Related pages

External sites...

The man who planted trees, the story of Elzeard Bouffier, written by Jean Giono. Whether it is a true story, I don't know, but it is a beautiful story. Something to aspire to.

On this site...

Bowman Park

Climate change in the Australian context and in the global context

Compassion

Contribution

Environment

Port Pirie Regional Council's shameful destruction of remnant roadside vegetation in contravention of their own native vegetation management plan.

Walking for climate change awareness: cleaning up the roadsides at the same time

Let's have a progressive Port Pirie

Why I support the local wind farm

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Index

A word on Acacia victoriae
August 2019
Compared to a wind farm?
Correspondence
  Correspondence 2019/12/09
Crystal Brook peoples' rights
Help if you like
February 2020
First plantings
Future work
  Intended planting
Mid-2019
Mulch
Photos of the vegetation at the beginning of the work
What has been planted?
Planting technique used
Possible indication of phytotoxicity
Progress of the revegetation project
  August 2019
  September 2019
  December 2019
  February 2020
  March 2020
Suggestions on what to plant where are welcome
Support from authorities unlikely
Who 'owns' the land?
Why revegetate the land?
  Why not?


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