4 December 2023

How Goulburn remembers with a green and growing legacy

| John Thistleton
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two men at war memorial wall

Rock salvaged from the Rocky Hill War Memorial car park has been used in this Park Road Goulburn Memorial Avenue wall, reinforcing the city’s remembrance theme. Chris Toole (left) and Robbie Hughes have helped expand on the tree-lined aims. Photo: Goulburn Mulwaree Council.

Over seven successive summers, tree saplings began appearing on access roads into Goulburn. As one year became two and three years and so forth, hundreds of trees extended the rows already planted. Eight hundred trees later along the nine entrance routes to the city, the saplings represent one of the biggest mass plantings Goulburn Mulwaree Council outdoor staff have ever undertaken. And they’re not finished.

The origins of the avenues go back to September 1919 when 70 trees were planted along Park Road honouring World War I soldiers from Eastgrove. (Another local avenue of 18 trees was planted a year earlier at Shaws Creek, Gundary.)

Yet to make their presence felt with sprawling, shady canopies and colour, the latest trees nevertheless will do just that and much more in the decades ahead.

For the council’s business manager, community facilities Robbie Hughes and parks coordinator Chris Toole, and outdoor staff who rise at dawn to water the trees, this project could be their coolest ever.

“I like doing projects that recognise people or events relating to Goulburn’s history. This was an easy one,” Robbie said. “Plus we got to put trees in, a good thing because it cools the place down.”

Beginning about 2016, three dominant species – hybrid maples, pears, crab apples and crepe myrtles – were chosen to capitalise on Goulburn’s four distinct seasons with spring and summer blossoms, cool summer greenery and fiery autumn colours.

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“We have had three good seasons, they have progressed really well,” Chris said. “This summer we’ll probably water some of the newer ones.”

For a time the original avenues of honour trees fulfilled a remembrance role, but in later years many died and roadworks destroyed others. The memorial avenue was lost and its memory faded, as former Goulburn mayor Bob Kirk recounted on Remembrance Day 2018 at the rededication of Park Road as a memorial avenue.

He said in 2016 a volunteer street tree working party revived the original avenue’s history as a foundation for Avenues of Remembrance on all the entry/exit roads to and from Goulburn. He has pursued the concept passionately ever since. Museums Officer Dr Claire Baddeley and RSL sub-branch member and Squadron Leader (retired) Mark Collins provided research.

Signposts cast in bronze stand on each of the avenues on the city’s north and south highway approaches and Crookwell, Braidwood, Range and Gurrundah Roads, identifying the conflicts they represent from World Wars I and II, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Timor and Solomon Island conflicts to peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

While not part of the Avenues of Remembrance, Robbie said Auburn Street had also been planted out to create a cooling, green canopy, with Japanese elms down the centre and pears on the sides. That work followed a conversation with the street tree working party after one blazing hot Anzac Day. He said main streets with a good tree canopy could be 20 degrees cooler than streets without canopy trees.

Chris said after starting out planting bare-rooted trees, they had found over time it was more economical to plant mature trees growing in 45-litre bags. Less prone to vandalism, their survival and growth rates were better.

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Robbie said avenue plantings would be blended into street tree plantings and extended to the riverside walking tracks. “No one wants to walk 15 kilometres without an iota of shade, so they are things we are looking at for our next stage,” he said.

Aside from the remembrance aims, a strong motivator for getting so many trees established is the example set years ago by the then council head gardener John Dixon and nurseryman Ernie Holloway who guided Robbie and Chris’s apprenticeships. Their work was their life’s mission. John looked after Belmore Park for more than 52 years. Growing flowers for the city consumed all of Ernie’s time.

“They were people before their time. Looking back at what they did for the town, it is just remarkable,” Chris said. “I worked a lot with Ernie. A lot of the trees you see today are because of him. The legacy items they have both left are remarkable.”

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