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.
Let's not just talk about it; let's do it!
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.
Children growing up with treesThe 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.
What Central Park is (or has been)
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).
A ramp down to a pedestrian subway that passes beneath the railway line can be seen below the Post Office.
Significantly Google Earth now recognises that the area is named Crystal Brook Central Park. I note that it is also labelled Crystal Brook Parklands.
What Central Park could be
A very few motivated people have done it in Clare, a few motivated people could do it in Crystal Brook too.
The authorities (The Department of Transport and Infrastructure and Pirie Regional Council) want it to be a wasteland; it doesn't have to be.
Gleeson Wetlands was a mess before a very few motivated people took it in hand, now it is a beautiful place, our Central Park could be too.
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.
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?
Opposition from government department
The more significant of the correspondence that I've had with the Department is given below.
It is interesting that the surrounds of the office building is similar to what is aimed for at Central Park, although in Central Park there are many shrubs and groundcovers rather than just trees, and many of the plants I've put in are attractive flowering species.
The Department's main objection to beautification of the Park seems to be contamination, although, as mentioned elsewhere on this page neither they nor Council has ever provided me with any evidence that significant contamination is present.
As mentioned elsewhere on this page the soil was tested for contamination back in April 2021. I suspect that no significant contamination was found. Certainly I've heard nothing of the results of the testing.
What has been planted?The species that Trees for Life had available in June 2019 that were suitable and that I bought were:
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:
Donated plants, April 2021I won't give the names of the donors because I don't have their permission to do so. One lady has paid for some attractive flowering Eucalypts (to be supplied by Ian Roberts of Blyth. Another lady has given me two Bauhinia (tree orchid) seedlings. These will all be planted soon, weather permitting.
Suggestions on what to plant where are welcomeIn 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.
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
Setting the scene
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.
Unlikely to receive support from authoritiesI 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.
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.
A word on Acacia victoriaeAcacia 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
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
Weeds that I've noticed in Central Park and have been able to identify include:
Planting technique used
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' rightsAs 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 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
A public pollIn 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.
Poll resultThe 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 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 first plantings
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.
December 2019The 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.
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.
June 2020As 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.
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 JuneProbably 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.
There is no reason that we couldn't have hundreds of beautiful plants like this, and much bigger, in Central Park.
September 2020About 150 seedlings were obtained from Trees for Life including:
October 2020The 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.
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.
December 2020Quite 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.
February 2021The summer weather of late 2020 and early 2021 has taken its toll. October was wet with 63mm, November dry, 5mm, December was wet again with 45mm, most of which fell early in the month, and only 7mm in January.
I was away from Crystal Brook from late December to late January, so the plants didn't get any supplementary water in that period.
While I did start watering about 26th of January I was limited in how much I could do by the heat and my advancing decrepitude; most of the younger plants were watered by 2021/02/01.
A significant number of the newer plants have died; more than in the previous summer.
April 2021In early April the dry weather continues. I've been watering when I can, perhaps five times through summer and to the present. Most plants continue to do well.
On 2021/04/02 I saw that the stock-piled railway lines had been moved out of the park area and piled up near the railway line. I don't know who took them, exactly when, or for what reason. Whoever it was has not damaged any plants; that would have required some care.
By the end of April there still had not been any significant rain, but I started planting some of the seedlings that I had kept over summer. I also started planting seeds: Sturt desert rose (Gossypium sturtianum), yacca (Xanthorrhoea quatrangulata) and Illawarra flame tree (Brachychiton acerifolius). This is the first significant direct seeding that I have done in Central Park.
Soil testing for contaminationOn 2021/04/29 I happened across a man who was preparing to sample the soil in Central Park for contamination. He said that the investigation had been ordered by the Department of Transport. The report resulting from the testing should be made public, I hope it will be.
As of late January 2022 I had heard nothing of the results of the testing, as mentioned elsewhere on this page.
May 2021According to my records there was only 33 millimetres of rain in Crystal Brook for the year up to 23rd of May. On the 24th we had 20.5mm. This will be a great boost for the plants in Central Park. Some trees, shrubs and groundcovers have been lost to the drought, but most have survived (with periodic watering).
June 2021Another about 30 seedlings were bought from Ian Roberts of Blyth. 12 Eucalypts were paid for by Jane Sargent, I paid for another 18. (All $6 each.)
Hardenbergia were planted beneath the 'keep out' signs. Planting and weed control continued.
September 2021On 2021/09/22 the weeds were so tall that little of the shrubs was to be seen, but anyone who took the trouble to walk through the park could find quite a bit in flower. All the photos in this section were taken using my iPhone 7 on that day.
One of several Alyogynes in Central Park
Note the two tall Allocasuarina verticillata (drooping she-oaks) in the background. The she-oaks have outpaced all the others I've planted in vertical growth. However, several have died after apparently doing very well for a year or more; a mystery.
Left above, Eremophila recurva
Right above, Eremophila nivea x christopheri
Unfortunately I've lost track of the label and botanic name.
Gazanias are not Australian natives, and I haven't planted them in Central Park, but they are beautiful flowers, especially when you look closely at them.
October 2021The weeds were slashed around 12-15th of October and, as previously, Danny Millard did an excellent job of it.
On 2021/10/15 I emailed Dan van Holst Pellekaan who will be the state member for the Crystal Brook area should he win the coming election in which he will contest the seat against Geoff Brock. I asked if, on the assumption he won the seat of Stuart in the election, if he would support the people of Crystal Brook in the improvement of Central Park. Someone in Dan's office replied that he would call in and have a look at the park when passing through Crystal Brook.
Due to circumstances that I will not go into here my wife Denece and I decided we needed to move to a place where we would have access to good and effective public transport and be close to our daughter and her family. We will be leaving Crystal Brook and going to Mandurah in Western Australia in the next few months.
Most of the tree guards have been removed; many more will be removed before we leave. The trees and shrubs will be quite capable of looking after themselves. Perhaps someone else will do a bit to look after Central Park in the future?
November 2021I write this on the 20th. There has now been nearly 100mm of rain in Crystal Brook for the month, many times the average November rainfall and it is raining as I write. The rain will be great for the trees and shrubs, but will also bring up hoards of summer weeds. I intend to do some spraying in the coming few weeks.
I took the (pretty ordinary) photos on the right to have a record of at least a couple of parts of Central Park as it was around the time that we left Crystal Brook.
Both images have high definition versions that can be viewed if you click on the photos - use back arrow to return.
The second photo was taken from the main road near the railway crossing.
Intended planting(As mentioned elsewhere on this page I, David Clarke, will be leaving Crystal Brook around the end of 2021, so what happens in the future will depend on others.)
In the longer term I'd like to plant the following:
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.
CorrespondenceThe correspondence is in chronological order.
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.
Advertiser article of 2020/07/03I 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.
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:
Port Pirie has a nice central park, why shouldn't Crystal Brook have one?
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.
Guerrilla gardeningGuerrilla gardening, as defined in Wikipedia:
"is the act of gardening on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to cultivate, such as abandoned sites, areas that are not being cared for, or private property. It encompasses a diverse range of people and motivations, ranging from gardeners who spill over their legal boundaries to gardeners with political influences who seek to provoke change by using guerrilla gardening as a form of protest or direct action."In the context of Crystal Brook the Central Park work is the extension of work done by Roly Nicholls, Col Matheson, Ken Grossman, myself and others revegetating roadsides years ago.
That work had the blessing of the local council (Crystal Brook had its own council in those years, now Crystal Brook is in the Port Pirie Regional Council area), I recall that Council loaned me a watering trailer when I needed it. Like the Central Park project, the revegetation was done on Crown Land.
I should also specifically recognise here the more recent planting that Lorraine Saunders has done around Crystal Brook.
CostsTo the present time the cost of seedlings has been $1612. Hardware, which is also used on my property and at Gleeson Wetlands, cost $893.
I have not attempted to cost material I had before starting the Central Park project, the use of my cars and trailer, water, nor my own time.
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.
Guerrilla gardeningSustainable Gardening Australia online: Guerrilla gardening
Wikipedia: Guerrilla gardening
Wikipedia: Guerrilla gardeners; a TV series
Crystal Brook Central ParkThere 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 where I have contributedBowman Park, also at Crystal Brook, also dependent on volunteer workers.
Gleeson Wetlands, Clare. Not enough voluntary workers here either.
Our new home, Mandurah, WAPhotographs from when I was a visitor
Photos taken after moving to WA
Projects: controlling weeds and planting natives
Peel estuary and Mandurah - observations
General relevant pagesClimate 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.
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
Index of sections on this pageA word on Acacia victoriae
Advertiser article of 2020/07/03
Central Park is...
Central Park could be...
Children growing up with trees
Compared to a wind farm?
Conserving soil moisture; caltrop fairy ring
Soil testing for contamination
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
Opposition from government department
Photos of the vegetation at the beginning of the work
Planting technique used
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
Soil testing for contamination
Support from authorities unlikely
Vandalism; trees pulled out in late June 2020
What has been planted?
Weeds that DPTI have allowed to grow in Central Park
Who 'owns' the land?
Why revegetate the land?