Rescue program for significant Central Park trees

A rescue program will begin tomorrow to save nationally significant trees in Armidale’s Central Park, using recycled water and a number of water-saving measures.

Work will start with aeration of the park’s ground surface tomorrow, in preparation for a carefully measured watering program, after a number of rare and significant trees started to show symptoms of dieback because of the ongoing drought.

Watering at Central Park and other open spaces in the Armidale region has been stopped as part of water conservation measures, as the region remains under strict water restrictions.

“A number of Central Park trees showing signs of water stress date back to the park’s establishment in 1880, including three Lucombe oaks that were sourced from the Sydney Botanic Gardens 140 years ago” Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray said.

“Central Park also contains one of the best collections of conifers in the NSW and several of those pine trees are also showing symptoms of stress.

“These trees, and the fact Central Park is one of the few intact Victorian-era parks left in Australia, were central to Central Park’s listing on the State Heritage Register last year,” Cr Murray said.

“A significant part of the region’s heritage and cultural significance would be lost forever if these trees died as a result of the drought.”

He said there was still considerable deliberation about whether to irrigate the trees, while Council and the community is working so hard to minimise water use and conserve the region’s remaining water supplies.

“The deliberations included gauging community sentiment about water-use priorities. Feedback indicated strong community support for allocating water to preserving those significant trees,” Cr Murray said.

“Those deliberations also identified alternative water sources, so treated water would not be used at the park.”

‘Recycled or bore water in use’ signs will be displayed at Central Park. The tree rescue program will exclusively use dam supplies at the new Armidale regional landfill site, as well as recycled water used to clean the filters at Armidale’s water treatment plant.

“That backwash water from the treatment plant contains a significant amount of vegetable matter and sediment and is therefore limited in how it can be used but will be perfect for irrigating these trees,” he said.

Council’s aerator will be used tomorrow to penetrate and shake the park’s soil, to allow greater water penetration from rain forecast for tomorrow and Saturday and make subsequent irrigation more effective in reaching the trees’ roots.

“It is proposed to apply around 5mm of water each week, using the recycled and landfill site water, until the trees show signs of improved health,” Cr Murray said.

“The rescue work will also include applications of clay-rich top-dressing and decomposed mulch on the root zones that will hold the moisture and help the tree roots access that water.

“This will mean parts of Central Park will look a bit different and some of the open grass area will be replaced by mulch but there will still be plenty of open space for people to sit and enjoy the park.”

In addition, Council is acting upon community calls for a ‘tie a purple ribbon’ campaign to enable residents to help save the trees.

“A concerned resident asked if Council could tie the ribbons around the significant trees, so interested people to use their recycled water to help water them,” Cr Murray said.

“We obviously strongly discourage using fresh, treated water on the trees. However, residents are encouraged to use suitable recycled water, such as water captured in buckets while showering, to help irrigate these valuable trees.”

The purple ribbons will be placed on selected trees next week.

/Public Release. View in full here.