Figs in Wahroongah gone


There were sad scenes on the TV news of three mature figs being felled at a Sydney north shore train station, Wahroongah. I heard about it on twitter from a feed from the Sydney Morning Herald. The paper did two stories on it, one of which said that the Premier, Kristina Kenneally, supported the removal of the trees. Barry O’Farrell, the opposition leader, on the other hand, didn’t, and even spoke in parliament about trying to save them.

The trees have represented a ‘trip hazard’ for some time and on Railcorp’s website are some photos of the sad ways they’ve dealt with this:

Who did they ask for advice about how to manage this?  Those lumps of rubber around the bases of the trees could represent a hazard in themselves.

There are still two trees to go in October – which gives people several months to work out ways to keep the trees. As Mr O’Farrell said, 

“We’ve got 80-year-old trees that for decades have provided shelter from the wind, from the rain and also from the sun,” he told AAP. Take them out, the platform is now exposed. You are giving customers less service. There were other ways of doing it.”

There’ll be other stations where trees are a ‘problem’ so you always have to take into account the precedent this sets for the future. I found a sad forum called Rail Page Australia and New Zealand where a discussion is going on about the trees in Wahroongah and one trainspotter said,

‘Typical North Shore attitude. I remember not that long ago, RailCorp removed the massive tree from High Street station. How many complaints? Zero! Westies have got bigger issues to deal with.’

I would contend that ‘Westies’ have ‘bigger’ issues but would object to removal of trees just as much as more affluent people; perhaps they’re just disempowered and less likely to think that protest is useful.

‘Westies’ will be just as hot standing on an unshaded platform as someone from the North Shore. They will be just as unimpressed at the years of waiting for the replacement trees to become large enough to be useful. Many of the comments on the trainspotting site remind me of the bovver-boy comments we get here on the online comment pages of the Herald. Do you have to be hard-hearted and conservative to make online comments?

The blue road is a public art installation in the Netherlands that I’ve written about before. Maybe one could paint some fantastic painting on the tarmac at the train station in lary colours to show that you have to go around the tree roots. A graffiti artist could help.

Go to Southbank in Brisbane and you can sit on some decks built around the bases of trees. They’re not there to stop you tripping over the roots (I don’t think); I assume they’re there to look beautiful and use the trees as a fantastic landscaping feature.

Lots of people build around trees.Why couldn’t one build a shallow deck around them, sitting over the irregular paving? Is there something magic about asphalt on stations?  

I mentioned the story to my partner and he came up with a simple idea – build a seat around the base of the trees. Changes would have to be made to the seat in the picture of the children on the seat at the base of the huge tree to make the seat extend out far enough but you get the idea. If it extended far enough out from the tree it would cover the roots. The picture is from a blog called absolutelybeautifulthings.

A rail user quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald suggested simply asphalting over the top of the roots. In a park, of course, you could avoid tarmac and have mulch. 

Mulch makes people want to avoid walking under a tree (presumably because little bits of bark always manage to jump into your shoes) and solves the problem of tripping. 

Having no tar, a surround of mulch, and a small attractive fence around the tree  is another idea. 

 If you google ‘decking around trees’ there are loads of hits.

Peter Weldon Iron Designs is a British site that makes seats and tree guards, fences and gates. There’s a gallery on the site with lots of ideas for possible solutions to this sort of problem. Planter boxes and garden beds would also make people walk around the hazard.

Don’t arborists, builders, architects and homeowners deal with this stuff all the time?

We could have a design competition to come up with a solution for the other two trees that will be felled in October and if they’re beyond saving, perhaps Railcorp could use the idea for the next time.

Lastly on trip hazards, there’s an Australian invention called Tripstop which has an interesting website. It’s used to join sections of concrete path together and make paths and tree roots coexist safely, as well as to avoid the necessity to pull up old concrete and make new concrete. He even has a page on the climate change implications of making concrete twice. There’s an interview with the inventor here.  Cheers.    Home


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3 Responses to “Figs in Wahroongah gone”

  1. sharon Says:

    Wow, look at those great seats around the trees, they are FANTASTIC and what a simple solution to a perceived problem.

  2. fig tree massacre « outernational Says:

    […] Save Our Figs offers a great overview of architecture and design solutions for living with historic trees. Too late for the three which fell last week, alas. […]

  3. Jim Says:

    Hey, thanks for the comment on my post. Was delighted to see it: I was going to leave a comment here thanking you for help & inspiration, but you beat me to it. As it happens, that black & white photo is not mine: I found it on a google image search.
    Here’s my follow-up entry. It covers my thoughts about that railworker’s forum, and some larger issues about social attitudes about environmentalism. It’s a bit rambling but that’s my style I suppose.

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