More harm than good?

Nearly one hectare of aspen poplar trees have been bulldozed at Sanatorium Lake Picnic Ground in a Parks Victoria contract that has left locals devastated by the aftermath.
The trees, thought to have been planted 150 years ago, were demolished between February and April, leaving behind a mess of broken limbs and debris which has ended up in the nearby creek.
The trees were considered an invasive, non-native species that were converting the picnic area into a monoculture of aspen poplar, out-competing native vegetation and reducing habitat for native fauna and flora.
However, the aftermath has made many question whether the removal has done more harm than good.
Mount Macedon and District Horticultural Society president Stephen Ryan has called the removal unnecessary and careless, destroying several other plants in the process, including a 100-year-old rhododendron.
“It looks like a war field. I just can’t get my head around what they thought they were doing. It’s going to take years before it will be attractive again,” Mr Ryan said.
“They have ruined an attractive scenic area without any foreseen useful outcome. The poplars were not native but not posing any particular threat and had a cultural significance to the area. People would come here to view them.”
Mr Ryan said this attempt to eradicate the poplars had only served to propagate the trees which was evident in the new poplar shoots already beginning to appear.
Poplar debris had also been pushed into the creek which could spread the seed to areas further downstream. Branches and leaf matter was reported to have washed down the creek.
Mr Ryan said the poplars had been providing shelter for various plants and now any ferns, low-lying plants and plants reliant on shade would be at risk.
Members of the community raised their concerns with Liberal candidate for Macedon Amanda Millar who questioned why the community had not been properly consulted before the bulldozers were brought in.
Residents and park users were only notified of the works via signage and updates on the Parks Victoria website. While works were being conducted, areas of the park were closed to the public.
Speaking in Parliament on the matter last week, Shadow Minister for Environment Nick Wakeling raised the concern of the local community and questioned the removal process.
Mr Wakeling called on the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change to “provide an explanation to the Mount Macedon community and explain why a decision was taken not to remove the trees from the site but to allow them to be pushed into the local creek”.
Parks Victoria district manager Tony English said cleanup works on the site would resume in the coming weeks, subject to dry weather conditions. He said this would be followed by mulching and weed spraying to manage further encroachment.
“Parks Victoria appreciates the importance of Macedon Regional Park to the community. When completed, the visitor area and surrounds will look like other healthy native tall mountain forest within the Macedon Ranges,” he said.
“Parks Victoria has a responsibility to ensure that weeds and pests do not encroach on the environmental and natural values of our parks.
“The exact age of the trees is not known. The removal of several aspen poplar trees was the first step in the rehabilitation process of the native plants and habitat of the park.”
Mr English said a broader upgrade of signage and walking tracks would be undertaken in the park to improve the visitor experience.
He said Parks Victoria would also ensure the treated area transitioned back to healthily regenerated forest.

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