Featured / Community / 14th September 2023
Bridges Box on chopping block
Concerns over the removal of a 400-700 year old tree at Coonabarabran’s John Oxley Caravan Park are being taken into consideration by Warrumbungle Shire Council and other community members.
Plans to remove an old Bridges Box Tree as part of number three oval upgrades has some community members concerned.
While the tree has the potential to fall onto the new sporting amenities, a number of people are worried the removal of the tree could have a negative impact on the local ecosystem.
The tree has been dated by professional arborists who believe the tree is approximately 400 to 700 years old.
Cultural scientist, Paris Goolagong, has been in contact with Council and notes the significance of the tree.
She said the tree assists in soil fertility, ground integrity, temperature regulation and is a valued habitat for insects and wildlife.
She said the tree was known as a ‘mother tree’ and could be responsible for many other Bridges Box trees in the area.
“Mother trees are the glue that holds it together - they have genes from previous climates, which survey and prepare the soil and other plants for changes,” Mrs Goolagong said.
She said the community was looking for an appropriate and holistic solution, highlighting the values of the township.
“To see Council, or those involved, not considering the broader effects of removing an important tree or exploring alternative options and educating themselves, can be disappointing,” she said.
Warrumbungle Shire Council mayor, Cr Ambrose Doolan has recognised the concerns of the community.
He said it was suggested pruning may be beneficial for the longevity of the tree.
Cr Doolan said a prune could also protect the amenities from large branches falling onto the new amenities at number three oval.
“It’s a beautiful big tree and no one is going to do anything to destroy it if we can avoid it,” Cr Doolan said.
However, the final outcome of the Bridges Box tree is dependent on owner of John Oxley Caravan Park, Michael Kelly.
The tree in question sits behind number three oval, on the property of the caravan park.
Mr Kelly donated part of his land to Council in order for the oval amenities upgrades to go ahead in that particular location.
However, Mr Kelly said he had planned to remove the tree before COVID, with his decision based solely on the safety of customers.
“We had a case where a limb of a tree fell onto a caravan,” Mr Kelly said.
“It was lucky no one was in it, as they had just left for a shower.”
Council has engaged experts to look at the health of the tree.
“Currently we are of the opinion that it is a big tree, but it is rotting at the bottom and in a big wind it might snap off and that would be the endofit,” said Cr Doolan.
“A judicious prune might be beneficial for the tree.”
While Council has informed Mr Kelly the limbs would be chopped free of charge, Mr Kelly has said he does not want to leave the tree and become liable for any future damages.
In spite of the outcome, Mrs Goolagong said there were positive outcomes to valuing the environment.
“This alternative, to removing the tree, is simple and often situations like this are,” she said.
“If we don’t value the environment then we don’t seek alternatives and we don’t question how we can do things better.”
As the community becomes more environmentally conscious through local initiatives, there is question about the values held in place by individuals compared to the wider community.
Actively working to build a more sustainable and environmentally conscious town are groups such as the Castlereagh River Regeneration Project, Local Land Services and more.
A tree registry has been proposed, informing the public about the health of a tree and the environmental and culturally significant factors.
“I believe it’s important to have one as it will assist the community, Council and contractors in the future with making any development decisions,” Mrs Goolagong said.