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.
An Eremophila nivea x christopheri in flower in Central Park 2020/08/09.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
The plants that I purchased from Ian Roberts in early September 2019 and planted by 8th September were:
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:
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.
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 controlThere 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.
WateringAll the seedlings would benefit from some watering during their first summer.
General tidying upThere are a number of dead or half dead Acacia victoriae that could be cleaned up.
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.)
Dead, or mostly dead Acacia victoriae, silverleaf nightshade beneath.
A bad infestation of silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium; the lower part of a pepper tree is visible in the upper right of the photo.
Pepper trees and African box thorn, Lycium ferocissimum Miers
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.
A dead Acacia victoriae, near-dead trees on the left
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.
Artichoke thistle (Cynara cardunculus) in the foreground, Acacia victoriae in the background
PredecessorsBefore 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.
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 vegetationTrees 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.
DPTI has failed in its responsibility to look after the land and they have been unnecessarily obstructive
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 I've noticed in Central Park and have been able to identify include:
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.
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.)
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 landThe 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
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.
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.
June 2019As 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.
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.
The Melaleuca lanciolata seedling in the photo on the right is the first that I planted in the railway lands.
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.
2019/07/10About 80 trees have been planted; I got about 20 in on my best day.
2019/07/29About 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.
2019/08/21About 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 InfrastructureThe 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.
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 weedsSlashing 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.
A path from the underpass to Darbon Terrace was being concreted at the time of the watering.
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.
WeedsOn 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.
Caltrop fairy ring
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
There is no reason that we couldn't have hundreds of beautiful plants like this, and much bigger, in Central Park.
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.
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.
Before the end of the year many had been planted and seemed to be doing well.
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.
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.
2019/09/12I 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.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.
"G'day again Peter;
On 2019/12/09 I received the following reply:
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, 2020/08/05The 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 WingardFollowing 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.
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.
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
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 areaFirst; 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:
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.
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.
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 contributeBowman Park, also at Crystal Brook, also dependent on volunteer workers.
Gleeson Wetlands, Clare. Not enough voluntary workers here either.
General relevant pagesClimate change in the Australian context and in the global context
Compassion for all, not just one's fellow human
Port Pirie Regional Council's shameful destruction of remnant roadside vegetation in contravention of their own native vegetation management plan.
Let's have a progressive Port Pirie
Self respect is deserved; its undeserved counterpart is narcissism.
A word on Acacia victoriae
Advertiser article of 2020/07/03
Children growing up with trees
Compared to a wind farm?
Conserving soil moisture; caltrop fairy ring
Crystal Brook peoples' rights
DPTI fails to look after the land and have been obstructive
Help if you like
Google Earth photo of the land
Photos of the vegetation at the beginning of the work
What has been planted?
Planting technique used
A public poll
Port Pirie has a nice central park, why shouldn't Crystal Brook have one?
Possible indication of phytotoxicity
Progress of the revegetation project
Silverleaf nightshade (in several photos)
Suggestions on what to plant where are welcome
Support from authorities unlikely
Vandalism; trees pulled out in late June 2020
Weeds that DPTI have allowed to grow in Central Park
Who 'owns' the land?
Why revegetate the land?