Community

Time is up for Braidwood’s historic poplar avenues

Alex Rea 23 May 2020
Golden poplar trees flanking the highway on the northern entrance to Braidwood.

The northern entrance to Braidwood is flanked by historic golden poplar trees. Photo: Alex Rea.

The longstanding saga of Braidwood’s historic highway entry lined with golden and Lombardy poplar trees is progressing to the next stage. Last week, Transport for NSW emailed some residents with plans to replace the ageing poplars with new saplings.

The poplars have been deemed a roadside hazard because they are too close to the highway, and there have been several fatalities on the straight stretch of road over the years.

Kings Highway is the main route between Canberra and the NSW South Coast. It carries a high volume of traffic, particularly on weekends and during summer holidays. The corridors of trees on both the northern and eastern approaches to Braidwood are located very close to travel lanes.

Transport for NSW is finalising planning for a safety upgrade, including installation of guardrails along the northern approach to Braidwood to protect motorists from roadside hazards, and planting of newly grown saplings in a corridor 6.5 metres from the roadside to preserve an avenue of trees in this location in the future.

The eastern approach to Braidwood will be looked at as part of future funding, with Kings Highway considered the priority.

In the email to residents, Transport for NSW said it is “progressing with safety improvements on the Kings Highway at Braidwood later this month. We have listened to the community and have designed a plan that will maintain the tree-lined avenue while also improving road safety.

“The existing avenue of trees are historically significant to the community of Braidwood, however they pose a safety hazard to motorists by being close to the road. The project will include the installation of guardrails along both sides of the Kings Highway at the northern approach to Braidwood.

Poplar tree saplings that will be planted along the highway entry to Braidwood.

New poplar tree saplings which will replace the ageing avenue of trees that line the Kings Highway on entry to Braidwood. Photo: Transport for NSW.

“Advancements in roadside barrier technology have reduced the amount of room required behind the guardrails, allowing us to keep trees along the avenue while improving safety for motorists.

“The existing poplars are approaching the end of their natural lives. The planting of 100 new poplar saplings behind the existing avenue of trees will take place. This will maintain the heritage significance of the original trees while also improving road user safety. We will inform the community when work is due to start.

“Following advice from NSW Health, and existing social distancing measures, we are no longer able to involve the community in the tree planting as originally planned. To make this project milestone available to the community, we will be recording the planting of the trees and uploading the video to the project website.”

The window of opportunity for the tree planting is during autumn, so it is expected to be done in the next month.

A potted history of Braidwood’s poplar trees

Braidwood’s heritage-listed poplar avenue is a memorial to the 25-year reign of King George V from 1910 to 1936.

The avenue of poplar trees on the northern entrance to Braidwood is listed on the Register of the National Estate. It comprises poplars lining the Kings Highway, extending 1km south from the entrance to Braidwood Showground, 2km northwest of Braidwood.

The avenue’s statement of significance says: “The popular avenue demonstrates high local historical value as a commemoration of an event of importance to the community of Braidwood, and an illustration of the importance many in the community attributed to the British monarchy. The avenue also represents tangible evidence of the efforts of various residents of Braidwood to strengthen a sense of community in the district.

“In 1925, the then Municipal Council undertook various improvement works within the Braidwood township, including the planting out of Ryrie Park using plant material donated by the Forestry Department and Botanic Gardens. Continuing this spirit of community celebration in 1936, the northern approach road, from about the showground entrance, was planted with Lombardy and golden poplars. The avenue was to specifically celebrate the 25th year of the reign of King George V. The northwestern part of the avenue incorporates an old windbreak of large Monterey pines which frame the entrance to Braidwood Showground. The windbreak was probably planted in about the 1880s or earlier.”

In 2004, the then Eastern Capital City Regional Council (ECCR Council) established a working group on the poplars due to community concern for their fate. At that time, six of the condemned poplars were removed under a works order from the former Roads & Traffic Authority (RTA).

Avenue of Lombardy poplar trees on the eastern side of Braidwood.

The avenue of Lombardy poplar trees on the eastern side of Braidwood. Photo: Alex Rea.

A report condemned around half of the 90 trees, but residents requested an independent assessment be done, and that the speed limit be lowered from 100km/h to 80km/h.

“Imposing a restrictive speed limit, as some residents suggested, doesn’t solve the problem of the condemned trees falling because speed wouldn’t make much difference if one of the trees actually fell on a car,” said the ECCR Council at the time.

The community formed the People’s Poplar Front, headed by Hans Hofmann, and more than 1000 signatures were collected in support of the trees. The group also raised funds for a new report.

The report found that 19 trees were deemed necessary for removal due to their unsound structure, and 26 should be reassessed in the near future, while 49 were considered suitable for retention.

The People’s Poplar Front called on members of the community to Adopt-a-Poplar, and on National Tree Day in 2005, the then Palerang Council, the RTA and the local group invited everyone to help in the planting of new trees in the Commemorative Poplar Avenue on Kings Highway, between Station Street and Deloraine Lane, in a row further from the road than the existing trees.

Sadly, these new trees all perished in the dry summer as they were not looked after by the council, which had disallowed residents to ‘adopt’ them and care for them.

In March 2013, the 100km/h speed limit on the Kings Highway on both approaches to Braidwood was reduced to 80km/h.

Transport for NSW said, “Although there has been a reduction in the number and severity of crashes since the introduction of the 80km/h speed zone, the roadside hazards still pose a risk to motorists.”

In 2013, Transport for NSW harvested cuttings from the existing golden poplar trees. The saplings have been growing steadily and are now at a height suitable for replanting.

What's Your Opinion?

8 Responses to Time is up for Braidwood’s historic poplar avenues

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Richard 11:13 pm 29 May 20

Gooday All.

I remember the tree lined road when I lived in Canberra.

My wife and I would pass through Braidwood on trips to ‘ The Bay’ ( Batemans Bay ), or onwards to further southern realms.

It’s unfortunate the trees have been dragged into this melange of power play and negligence.

Hats off to all members of The People’s Poplar Front.

Long live the Trees, without them we are stuffed.

Amanda Wray 9:54 pm 29 May 20

Billions of dollars has been spent at all levels of government to take out every bend on every road in NSW because drivers can’t control their vehicle and stay on the road. Both the northern and eastern approaches to Braidwood are dead straight flat roads. So all the trees are to be removed and guardrails installed because in their frenzy to inundate the coast at every opportunity drivers STILL can’t keep their vehicles on the road. Having driven this road daily for 6 years I can attest to the fact that almost every one of these grand old poplars is home to nesting birds. But hey who cares about birds. In this age of bushfire devastation and pandemic, such squandering of taxpayers money is criminal.

Deborah Williams 9:32 am 29 May 20

So heavy handed an approach to a very sensitive and important issue. A staged replacement of only those trees deemed hazardous is a much more appropriate approach. Braidwood will not have the same charm and allure without these grand trees and tourism to the area will likely be negatively affected- you are hardly encouraged to stop and look around when a country town is barren and uninviting without the welcoming landscape that mature trees provide. Transport NSW is waging a war on trees with swathes of healthy trees that provide vital fauna habitat and huge aesthetic value being destroyed, and all for what – so people can drive faster and less responsibly. As with most things reducing risk usually results in actually reducing quality of life. Living with an element of risk is part of living a healthy and full life. Risk management in the hands of bureaucrats always looks the same and they delude themselves into thinking they are doing something useful. Now more than ever we need to preserve and look after trees. Trees are indeed life.

Amanda Wray 8:49 am 29 May 20

Billions of dollars has been spent by governments and councils to remove every bend from every road in NSW because drivers can’t control their own vehicles and stay on the road. Both the Eastern and northern approaches to Braidwood are dead flat straight roads. So we chop down all the trees and put up guard rails because drivers, in their perpetual frenzy to inundate the coast STILL can’t keep their vehicles on the road. In this age of pandemic and bushfire devastation such squandering of taxpayers money is criminal. Direct that funding to where it is needed.

France Meyer 11:32 am 26 May 20

This is absolutely shocking and must be stopped for the following reasons:

– At a time when most of the Tallaganda forest and the South Coast forests have gone up in smoke, it is absolutely essential and imperative to retain any remnant mature tree to make up for the loss of habitat for birds and other living organisms.
Failing to recognise that need shows ultimate contempt for the victims of the summer fires and the devastating impact they had on our fauna and flora.

– Replanting saplings further away will NOT reduce the likelihood of someone running their car into a tree, willingly or unwillingly.

– The previous replacement has failed. It is very likely that a full replacement will fail too, especially in the current climate harsh conditions.

– How many trees have fallen so far on how many cars to sustain the argument that one might fall one day on a passing car?

– The trees deemed dangerous should be replaced if an reputable arborist report support this move, however this should not condemn the full double row of trees.

There is no reason why a staged replacement of the trees could not be implemented, allowing future generations to enjoy what we have been enjoying up till now.

Please think about our children and wildlife and stop this inexcusable massacre.

Mick Peterson 10:28 am 25 May 20

I would be interested in how many accidents in the last ten years since the change to 80 ks.

Christopher Nelson 11:59 pm 24 May 20

Absolutely ridiculous. Saving who from what. Can you imagine anything more ludicrous than to remove a tree because a vehicle may crash into it. Omg.

Antony Davies 10:32 am 23 May 20

Strangely none of the reports that I have read about the RMS “upgrading” has clarified if they are going to immediately cut down the existing trees and plant new rows further back, or whether they will retain the existing trees until the new ones have grown…..

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