Crystal Brook 'Central Park' revegetation

This land in the middle of Crystal Brook has the potential to be an attractive park for the enjoyment of townspeople and visitors. 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; we should not accept that as good enough.

Callistemon blossum
Callistemon
Just one of the beautiful plants we will have in Central Park

If the land had any name in the past it was perhaps called the 'railway reserve'. The bulk of it is no longer controlled by the railway authority. It should have a more appropriate name, I've decided to use 'Central Park' until something better comes along.

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, for the people of Crystal Brook and for visitors. 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 was lots of caltrop about. There is a list of the weeds that I have identified below.

Among the desirable plants were some native grasses and indigenous trees including kurrajongs (Brachychiton populneus), Senna artemisioides and Broughton willow wattles (Acacia salicena). There were many clumps of native grasses and scattered ruby saltbush (Enchylaena tomentosa) plants through the area. 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, last edited 2021/01/22
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©




There is a Facebook page, see Crystal Brook Voluntary Workers

A flyover of Central Park can be viewed on You Tube

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.


October 2020

The weeds in the park were slashed in late September. It is now an attractive place to take a walk. I encourage anyone to stroll through the park; take no notice of the signs that falsely claim that the land is private property (it is public property).

Enjoy!




December 2020

With the late spring rains the weeds are back. If the Department was a responsible body they would do another slashing.

Let's not just talk about it; let's do it!
That applies to action on climate change as well as revegetation/beautification.
Put some meaning in your life, there are many ways you can contribute to improving your community and the planet.


An Eremophila nivea x christopheri in flower in Central Park 2020/08/09.
Eremophila
This Eremophila was photographed just over a year from the time of the earliest plantings. Think of what could be achieved in ten years!

There is no reason that we couldn't have hundreds of beautiful plants such as this, and much bigger, in Central Park with a few years effort from a few volunteers, see what has been done in Clare's Gleeson Wetlands.



Children growing up with trees

The children of Crystal Brook will grow up remembering that the trees, shrubs and ground cover plants in Central Park grew up with them. That is a wonderful thing for anyone to be able to remember in later years.


 
Google Earth
In November 2020 Google Earth showed the plantings in Central Park.
The image was dated 2020/07/29.

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 southeast of the silos.

The area involved is about 430 metres long and 110 metres wide; the area I have been planting is typically at least 20 metres from the railway line and ten metres from the line of trees on the southwestern side, a total of perhaps 2.8 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. In 'Central Park', below the railway line at the lower right is a row of mostly Acacia salicena 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?

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 silverleaf nightshade, wild oats and sour-sob, by competition. By suppressing the weeds, particularly the wild oats, the trees will reduce fire hazard.

 
Something to work toward in Central Park
Flowers
I have been involved in Lions Gleeson Wetlands, Clare, in all the six years of Lions involvement. Beautiful flowering plants such as these, Native hibiscus Alyogyne huegelii, the bush, upper centre, and pigface Carpobrotus glaucescens?, should do very well in Central Park.

This was mainly brought about by a small handful of volunteers in Clare. There is no reason that Crystal Brook's Central Park couldn't be just as good.

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.

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?



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);
  • Acacia 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 remainder were planted soon after.

The plants that I purchased from Ian Roberts in early September 2019 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.
In April 2020 I purchased another a hundred or so seedlings from Ian Roberts and planted them. I did not keep a list of the species.

From then onward I have planted many Enchylaena tomentosa (ruby saltbush) that I have grown from seed and Myoporum parvifolium (creeping boobialla) that I have grown from cuttings.

In August 2020 my wife and I bought the following tube stock from the Arid Lands Botanic Garden in Port Augusta for planting in Central Park:

  • Eremophila: alternifolia latifolia, bignon × alternifolia, decipiens, divaricata × polyclada, divaricata × policlada × 2, drumondii (low form), glabra (prostrate, red form × 2), glabra ssp carnosa × 2, lachnocalyx, paislyii ssp paislyii, 'parmango road', polyclada, stenophylla × 2,
  • Prosanthera calycina,
  • Rhodanthe chlorocephala.
At the same time we bought the following seed packets, also from the ALBG:
  • Acacia acinacea (Gold Dust Wattle),
  • Banksia burdettii (Orange Banksia),
  • Chamelaucium uncinatum (Geraldton Wax),
  • Corimbia ficifolia (Red Flower Gum),
  • Hakea laurina (Pin-cushion Hakea),
  • Hardenbergia comptoniana (Native Wisteria),
  • Kunzea Baxtei (Scarlet Gold-Tipped Kunzea).

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.



If you'd like to help

Help with the project would be welcome; contact David Clarke on 0400 256 125. I thank my long suffering wife, Denece, for her support through all my projects over the years, and Caroline Lloyd and one other for their help in Central Park.

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, July 2019

At start

An untidy group of Acacia victoriae on the right, a half-dead Acacia victoriae on the left, the noxious weed silverleaf nightshade in the left foreground. There were many patches of this weed in the northwestern half of the land before I got it under control. (The Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Transport, who have responsibility for the land had not done anything to control the weed.)


At start 1

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


At start 2

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

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

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.

The fact that the Acacia salicena trees are growing well close to the railway, where one would expect any soil contamination to be at its worst, suggests that there is little phytotoxicity in the land. Also see the Google Earth photo of the land, above.



At start 9

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





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.




DPTI has failed in its responsibility to look after the land and they have been unnecessarily obstructive

 
Uncontrolled weeds and sign with a false message erected by DPTI
Sign and weeds
The property is on publicly owned land.
Photo taken 2020/07/19
The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure has a responsibility to look after the land. The list of weeds, below, and the untidiness of the uncontrolled growth throughout the growing season shows that they are not fulfilling their responsibility.

Their refusal to allow slashing of the land at my expense shows that they have been unjustifiably obstructive. They seem to see their primary responsibility in regard to the land as obstructing any attempt by anyone to improve it and its value to the people of Crystal Brook.

They have used 'contamination' as justification for keeping the people of Crystal Brook out of the land, but they have never said where in the land this 'contamination' is, what it is, or how it could present any danger to the use of the land as a public park.




Weeds that DPTI have allowed to grow in Central Park

 
Uncontrolled weeds, including skeleton weed in the southeast corner of the park
Uncontrolled weeds
Photo taken 2020/07/19
The photo on the right shows an area of very untidy and totally uncontrolled weeds in Central Park. While it might not be obvious in the photo there is a lot of skeleton weed among wild oats and other undesirable plants.

Weeds that I've noticed in Central Park and have been able to identify include:

  • Caltrop, Tribulus terrestris;
  • Potato weed, Galinsoga parviflora;
  • Artichoke thistle, Cynara cardunculus;
  • Silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium;
  • Carpet weed, Galenia pubescens;
  • Caustic weed, Euphorbia drummondii;
  • African box thorn, Lycium ferocissimum;
  • Soursob, Oxalis pes-caprae;
  • Skeleton weed, Chondrilla juncea;
  • Marshmallow, Althaea officinalis;
  • Pepper tree, Schinus molle;
  • Wild turnip, Brassica rapa;
  • Salvation Jane or Paterson's curse Echium plantagineum;
  • Geranium or stork's bill, Erodium sp;
  • Wild oats, Avena fatua;
There are a number of other plants that I would call weeds but have not yet identified.




Planting technique used

 

Xanthorrhoea

I've planted many (forty as of late 2020?) of these beautiful native plants in Central Park and will plant more. They are enormously slow to grow, but are tough. I intend to harvest seeds and plant direct in Central Park in the future (2021).
When I grow native plants from seeds I generally follow the planting suggestions of Trees for Life. In some species this may involved attempting to 'break the dormancy' of the seed using boiled water.

In some species (for example, Xanthorrhoea species) the only thing to do seems to be to plant the seeds, one to three in a 125mm x 25mm tube, put aside in the open somewhere, and wait anything up to a year. Don't bother to water them, just keep an eye on the tubes until something germinates, then water them appropriately.

For planting the seedlings in the ground the technique that I've found, over many years of tree planting, that 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).

The ideal time to plant in Crystal Brook is probably in autumn, because the winters are fairly mild. But early spring is just about as good. I have planted most times except mid summer (I didn't have the luxury to pick and choose because of the number of seedlings that needed to be planted). If planting in late spring or early summer a few waterings are needed until the seedlings have time to establish a well developed root system.

When planting in autumn, winter or early spring 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 seems advisable.




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) are responsible for the maintenance of the land. They have done nothing more than an annual slashing over the past several years.

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 'controlled' by DPTI. 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.



A public poll

In June 2020 DPTI placed signs calling the land private property and forbidding entry. As mentioned elsewhere on this page, the land is not private property, it is public property.

In early July 2020 I arranged a public poll for the people of Crystal Brook asking them if they would prefer that the land remains largely neglected, as it has for most of the last 40+ years.

The poll information sheet

"A poll: What would you like to see done with the neglected land previously used by the railways in the centre of Crystal Brook?

This is the wide strip of wasteland adjacent to the railway line in the middle of town that has been largely neglected for at least the last 40 years. It is at present controlled by the Department of Planing, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) who oppose any improvement to the land.

After planting over 500 trees, shrubs and groundcovers in the land I have faced increasing obstructionism from DPTI. I offered to pay for the land to be tidied up by an additional slashing; my offer was ignored. And there has recently been substantial vandalism that may have been connected in some way with DPTI’s negativity. If the people of Crystal Brook show support for improving the land DPTI will have to stop their opposition.

Port Pirie Regional Council does not want to spend any money on the land; again, if the people of Crystal Brook show strongly that they want the land improved Council will have to take notice.

There are several options, two of which are:
1. Continue to have the land neglected except for an annual slashing (DPTI's demand).
2. Plant the land with attractive trees, shrubs and groundcovers. Eventually put in a few paths so that the people of Crystal Brook and visitors can enjoy the land as a park.

There are voting sheets at the Crystal Brook News-agency and other businesses in town. Please express your preference.

Both DPTI and Council say that the land is contaminated and that there are health risks in doing anything to improve it. In the year that I have been planting and looking after the trees neither have explained in any way what the contamination is, where it is, how much there is, and how there could possibly be any health risks in converting the land into a park. The truth is that careful and appropriate development could reduce any slight health risk that there could be from whatever contamination exists.

If the land is to be improved it would be great to have some help. Please register your name and a contact when you vote if you are willing to participate.

David Clarke, daveclarkecb@yahoo.com

There is a Web page about the project at ramblingsdc.net/Australia/CbCentralPark"





Poll result

The result of the poll was 191 in favour of converting the land to a park and one against. The one opposing was in favour of the land being cropped for the benefit of the Men's Shed group. (Only the south-eastern end is suitable for cropping, much of the remainder is too stony. The SE end had been cropped for a number of years ten or twenty years back with the proceeds going to various local groups.)

While the poll did not solicit specific suggestions two people suggested that it would be good to include a dog park, another suggested regular mowing. Both suggestions seem very reasonable.

As the previous Minister for Planning, Transport and Infrastructure was Stephan Knoll who has since resigned that position pending an investigation into expense claims I will have to find out who is now the responsible minister and inform him of what the Crystal Brook people want.

For myself, and I would think most Crystal Brook people would agree, we are not asking for much from the government, just some assistance controlling the weeds and an end to their obstructionism.





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 10 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.


 
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.




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.




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 silverleaf 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.




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

The effectiveness of conserving soil moisture

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.




April 2020

 
Seedlings
On 2020/04/07 I picked up 96 plants in tubes from Ian Roberts in Blyth (at a cost of $495). I immediately started potting them up because they were root-bound.

The photo on the right is of them after potting-up. At the bottom of the photo is a box of creeping boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium) I had grown from cuttings.

There was recently 33 mm of rain in Crystal Brook. This will bring up the weeds, including soursob (Oxalis pes-caprae). It will be necessary to spray patches before planting the new seedlings.





May 2020

Drone view 1


Looking southeast from near the northwestern end of Central Park. Most of the green growth is soursob. The weeds have been sprayed out or hoed out near the seedlings (in the mainly white tree guards).

A high definition version, for this and the image below, is available by clicking on the photo. Both were taken using my DJI Mavic Mini drone 2020/05/28.



Drone view 2


Looking southeast from near the centre of Central Park. Most of the green growth is soursob, the taller, denser areas are mostly marshmallow.

The park was starting to look quite untidy. I asked the DPTI representative if they could have the weeds slashed. As of 2020/06/09 I had received no reply.





June 2020

As can be seen in the above drone photos the weed growth was making the park look untidy by the end of May. In June it only got worse.

I contacted Dipty (DPTI) on the first of June informing them that the weeds were unsightly and needed to be slashed. On not receiving a reply I sent another email on the eighth of June offering to pay for the slashing myself.

 
NOTICE
PRIVATE
PROPERTY

NO ENTRY
On the tenth of June I received a reply stating that the land will not be slashed until September or October and that, in effect, neither Dipty nor the local council was willing to do any beautification of the land.

Also on the tenth signs were put up with the message on the right. (The signs are wrong. The land is not private property, it is Crown Land; that is, land owned by the people of Australia.)

Trees pulled out by a vandal in late June

Probably more than 100 trees were pulled out or broken off at ground level. It seems very unlikely that DPTI's (Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure) demonstrated negativity about the project was not a factor in the vandalism. I suspect that the vandal was at least emboldened, if not encouraged or even paid by DPTI to do his work.

Of course this is a great blow to me in trying to improve this land for the community, but DPTI and your vandal, you haven't won yet I will go on trying. You never know, some other local people might even be motivated to help me by this wanton destruction.





August 2020

 
Eremophila
An Eremophila nivea x christopheri in flower in Central Park.

There is no reason that we couldn't have hundreds of beautiful plants like this, and much bigger, in Central Park.

Photographed 2020/08/09



September 2020

About 150 seedlings were obtained from Trees for Life including:
  • Acacia ligulata, it has several common names including umbrella wattle;
  • Melaleuca lanceolata, a paperbark, tea tree, it has several common names;
  • Callistemon rugulosus, scarlet bottlebrush.
Most needed repotting before planting because they were root-bound. Planting began soon after purchase.



October 2020

The weeds in the park were slashed in late September. I can honestly say that it is now an attractive place to take a walk. It is no longer just a wasteland in the middle of Crystal Brook, it is an asset to the town, a pleasant place to spend a few minutes.

I encourage anyone to stroll through the park. Take no notice of the signs that falsely claim that the land is private property (it is public property).

Crystal Brook people, and visitors, enjoy the Crystal Brook Central Park, our newest asset.

In October about 35 plants were obtained from Ian Roberts (of Blyth) for planting in Central Park. Many needed repotting before planting because they were root-bound. Planting continued right through October and into November.




November 2020

 
Callistemon flower
Callistemon
There are many young Callistemon trees in Central Park, but they are not old enough to flower yet, this specimen is in another of 'my' gardens, Gleeson Wetlands, Clare
It is now five months since the last lot of tree-pulling vandalism, in late June. Every day that goes by means that the trees and shrubs are bigger and stronger and harder to damage.

Some of the more recent plantings have been yackas (Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata) and Illawarra flame trees (Brachychiton acerifolius, see photo below). Both will make valuable additions to the park.

The number of plants has reached the point where it can be challenging to drive a car through the park without running over a plant, and it is necessary to drive a car to spray weeds, water, and do more planting.

We have recently been pairing a tree or large shrub with a ground-cover or small shrub, spacing them about 800mm apart. This close spacing of pairs will make maintenance – spraying, slashing, weeding and watering – easier than if all plants were more distant from each other.

In early November I did a round of spraying, aiming mainly at weeds close enough to plants to compete with them for soil moisture. Later in November I watered most of the younger plants.

Planting and watering has continued up to late November.

 
Illawarra flame tree blossom
Photographed in Crystal Brook Showgrounds, 2020/11/23
In late 2020 I noticed many of the flame tree seeds I had planted months earlier and given up on were germinating (the same thing happens with yaccas at times, they germinate when it suits them).

Before the end of the year many had been planted and seemed to be doing well.





December 2020

Quite a lot of weeds had come up and grown due to the frequent and substantial spring rains. If Council or the Department were being responsible they would do another slashing.

In early December there was a little more vandalism; someone pulled out a few very small plants in the southern corner of the park.

The first vandalism was about a year ago. The second and worst incidence of vandalism was in June 2020 when about 100 plants were pulled out. So far at least, this third incidence is the smallest with the loss of perhaps ten plants.

A year ago determined vandalism could have put a stop to the effort to beautify Central Park. By late 2020 the time of that danger is probably past, many of the trees and shrubs are big and strong enough to be difficult to destroy.



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 and a photo of it in the November 2020 section on this page); for more information on the species see Climate Watch;
  • Callistemon species, including Gawler hybrid;
  • Eremophila species;
  • Eucalyptus 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. As of October 2020 there are a few specimens in the park doing very well (at least one was destroyed by vandals) and I am growing about 40 more from seed;
  • E. 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. woodwardii has large yellow flowers and has also been proven to do well in and around Crystal Brook;
  • Grevillea species including robusta;
  • Hymenosporum flavum, native frangipani;
  • Templetonia retusa, cocky's tongue;
  • Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata, yakka. As of November 2020 some have been planted, more will be planted.
All these species should tolerate the highly alkaline soils of Central Park.

The cost of the plants will be significant; up to October 2020 I have spent close to two thousand dollars on seedlings and equipment for the Central Park and Bowman Park projects.

I am continually growing many plants from either cuttings or seeds for the park.




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.


Email to new minister, Corey Wingard, 2020/08/05

The previous minister, Stephan Knoll, had resigned his position over questions about improper expense claims, so I sent a polite email to his successor, hoping for a more cooperative response.

By 2020/08/25 I had not received a response other than the automatic one saying that my email had been received. I resent the same message on 2020/08/25.



Reply from Minister Wingard

Following a reminder I eventually received a reply from Minister Wingard on 2020/09/16. It included the following:
“I am advised that DIT [Department of Infrastructure and Transport] has an ongoing vegetation control project with a maintenance team that follows a scheduled program throughout the year. The schedule for cyclic maintenance can vary as it is dependent on vegetation species and their different rates of growth, as well as seasonal rainfalls.”
Their “management team” consists of one contractor who slashes the area once a year. The “schedule for cyclic maintenance” consists of an annual slashing. They do absolutely nothing else.

One would have to wonder if Minister Wingard has any knowledge at all about the condition and lack of care of Central Park by his department.



Advertiser article of 2020/07/03

I was disappointed in the Advertiser article of 2020/07/03 headlined "Health risk ends tree dream".

First; I told the reporter quite clearly that I was going to continue with the work of improving the land.

Second; in the year that I have been corresponding with them neither Council nor the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) have ever shown me, or anyone I know, evidence that the land is contaminated, or that there is any health risk at all in using it as a park. I have written on the question of contamination elsewhere on this page.

The story also had some coverage on Channel 10 TV. The headline was "Abandoned Council Land". It is not council land, it is controlled by Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure.




Contamination?

Both the Port Pirie Regional Council and the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) have used 'contamination' and 'health risk' as justification for not allowing the people of Crystal Brook to change the wasteland into a park for the benefit of the people of the region.

 

Cropping of the land

The southeastern half of the land was cropped for a number of years before about 2012. If there was any contamination in the soil how could this have been permitted?

Surely if there was any contamination in the soil eating cereal grown on the land (or even feeding the grain to domestic animals) would be a far greater health risk than having the land used as a park.

Neither Council nor DPTI have ever shown me, or anyone I know, evidence that the land is contaminated. Any such contamination would come from the railway line (and possibly a sheep dip that may have been on the land at one time), but the closest of the present plantings are 20 metres from the railway. In more than a year of discussions with DPTI and Council neither have seen fit to provide me with any evidence that the land I am planting is contaminated; I strongly suspect that neither have any specific evidence of contamination.

If the land was seriously contaminated the weeds, trees and shrubs on the land would not grow as healthily and vigorously as they do. It seems clear that the contamination myth is no more than a convenient excuse for the authorities to do nothing to improve the land.

My impression is that Council uses the 'contamination' and mythical 'health risk' as an excuse to not spend any money on the land. I suspect that similarly, DPTI don't want to go to the expense of testing for contamination; they find it simpler to just obstruct any effort by the local people to improve the land.

In the absence of any evidence of contamination from either Council or DPTI I did my own research. The railway line, adjacent to the land I'm revegetating may have some residual arsenical herbicide contamination, as do all railway lines in South Australia, and probably Australia, including those many that are used for walking and cycling trails; see Researchgate. There is also evidence of some lead and zinc contamination "immediately adjacent to train lines" that were or are used to transport ore from Broken Hill to Port Pirie. (See Lead and zinc dust deposition from ore trains characterised using lead isotopic compositions).

Improving Central Park will not endanger anyone's health, if anything it will reduce health risk by stabilising the area

First; my plantings are from 20 to 100 metres from the railway line, so not in the area where contamination is most likely to be found.

Second; my plantings will minimally disturb the soil and I am immediately covering the very small disturbed area with mulch, so there can be no dust.

Third; my plantings will stabilise the soil, so reducing any risk of possibly contaminated dust blowing from the area.

Finally; I note that the ground adjacent to the railway tends to be bare, so if the soil is contaminated then any contaminant is far more likely to come from this area (higher level of contamination, more mobile soil due to raised dust) than in the area of plantings.

If there is contamination and a health risk associated with the railway line...

If there is contamination then dust blowing from contaminated bare ground could produce a health risk. (There will be no dust from Central Park.)

If there is contamination:

  • Why do the authorities allow bare ground near the railway line in the centre of Crystal Brook?
  • Why do the authorities allow bare ground on the access tracks that parallel most of the railway lines in the state?
  • Considering this apparent carelessness on the part of the authorities, why are there no reported resulting health problems?
All in all it is hard to see that if any contamination exists in Crystal Brook's Central Park the improvement of the land by converting it to a park will not result in any health risk to anybody.





Port Pirie has a nice central park, why shouldn't Crystal Brook have one?

 
Port Pirie's Memorial Park
Pt Pirie park
The two photos on the right of Port Pirie's Memorial Park, which is as much in the centre of Port Pirie as Central Park is in the centre of Crystal Brook.

Memorial Park gets a lot of attention from the Port Pirie Regional Council, Crystal Brook's Central Park gets none.

Crystal Brook's Central Park could be just as nice to walk around in as is Memorial Park in Port Pirie.

What is needed to make Crystal Brook's Central Park as nice as Port Pirie's Memorial Park? A little cooperation from the state government and regional council as well as some voluntary work.

 
Port Pirie's Memorial Park
Pt Pirie park
So long as we had some cooperation (rather than obstruction) from the state government and a little support from Port Pirie Regional Council we could gradually get there with voluntary work.

Have a look at Lions Gleeson Wetlands in Clare for example. Sure the original landscaping was done by the council, but the great bulk of the work in the six years since then has been done by a handful of volunteers and some grants.

We could achieve as much in Crystal Brook if a few of us wanted to try.






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.

Barossa Bush Gardens; a similar concept, at Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley. It looks like they have trouble getting enough voluntary workers too.

There is a relevant Facebook page, see Crystal Brook Voluntary Workers

A flyover of Central Park can be viewed on You Tube

On this site...

Places were I also contribute

Bowman Park, also at Crystal Brook, also dependent on volunteer workers.

Gleeson Wetlands, Clare. Not enough voluntary workers here either.

General relevant pages

Climate change in the Australian context and in the global context

Compassion for all, not just one's fellow human

Contribution; how can one have any self respect if one does not contribute to one's community and society?

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

Environment

Let's have a progressive Port Pirie

Self respect is deserved; its undeserved counterpart is narcissism.

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

Why I support the local wind farm