The popular Poplars

I love the poplars lining the road as you come into Bathurst from Sydney. It is wonderful to watch them change with the seasons. Driving back into town after an absence, they say “nearly home”. So it is a painful thing to read that they will soon get the chop.

If they are rotting and dangerous, then they must submit to this final bit of surgery. But what happens next? Do we have a road into town without poplars? Apparently we are waiting to see what happens with the RTA’s road-widening project. My great fear, which I hope will soon be put to rest, is that poplars will quietly disappear from the plans.

I would like to see “poplar-lined approach to the city from the east” become part of our bottom-line planning. They may not be indigenous, but like most of the population of Bathurst, they have made their home here. If we lose these particular trees, then they should be
replaced.

Street trees can be messy, inconvenient and even dangerous. But having them says a lot about our approach to the environment. It means that we appreciate aesthetic and ecological values, not just convenience and functionality. The poplars on the Great Western Highway give Bathurst charm and grandeur, as well as providing habitat for countless organisms large and small. They signal that this is a special place.

It is values like these that are attracting the “tree changers”, those high-income, high-qualified city-escapees that are the target of the $1.2 million Evocities project announced by Maxine McKew the other day. These people are looking for charm and a rural setting, not the endless car yards and furniture warehouses that they can see everywhere and that they are heartily sick of.

As Bathurst rapidly expands, it will also rapidly change. But change doesn’t have to rain down on us willy nilly. We can define the sort of town we want to live in, and accept that some of our decisions – such as preserving streetscapes – may bring some risks, costs and inconveniences. But the benefits in the long run will be worth it.

Originally published as a Climate Change column published on Thursday July 16, 2009, in Bathurst’s daily newspaper, The Western Advocate.

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