I keep coming back to the middle photo. It intrigues …

Comment on The risks in taming the river by Hal Duell.

I keep coming back to the middle photo. It intrigues me, the way it’s framed, what it shows and what it leaves out. It’s a bit like asking if the glass is half full or half empty.
As seen, it would appear that a copse of young trees is growing on an expanse of mowed lawn bordered in the background by a city street. The area looks manicured and inviting, offering a soft and shady seat on a hot summer day. And prickle free, another good service from an oft-maligned Town Council.
And yet if taken from the other side, the same copse with its mowed and prickle-free lawn would be bordered by a pedestrian / bicycle path (again thanks are due to our Town Council), then a strip of shoreline with an apparently healthy variety of eucalypts in various stages of maturity and then the Todd River as it winds its way through town. The lawn has become native growth and buffel.
Two sides of the same coin.
Taken from a slightly different angle again, would it be possible to get the old-man river gum featured in the bottom photo in frame? He’s not far off, biodiversified understory and all.
Continuing downstream, under the bridge and around the point of Myers Hill is the Olive Pink Botanic Garden with its 16-hectares of plants native to central Australia. Some 300 species are cared for ensuring a vigorous biodiversity will always remain a living part of urban Alice Springs.
The companion to the old-man river gum I mentioned before might be the tree down in front of the Desert Palms. We’ve lost so many in this year’s brutal fire season it can be difficult to remember exactly where I saw the last one go down. He was grand, now he’s not. Hopefully someone will be allowed to clean up the mess.

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The risks in taming the river
Taking the photos from the top, the first shows a stretch of parkland along a riverbank. Has the parkland and its upkeep caused the riverbed in the background to be without trees?
I suggest not necessarily as I can clearly remember walking down some of our major waterways and coming upon stretches of open, clear riverbed in country where the “wild” isn’t necessarily and understandably compromised by being in the middle of an urban setting.
This is also the stretch of the river that gets the most use by both families and from civic events. We are very fortunate to have access to this open space in the heart of Alice.
The manicured riverbank parklands in this picture are not riverbed, but they do offer the residents of Alice a wonderful space from which to enjoy an open view of the Todd River. If it’s decided that the exotics have to go, hopefully they will be replaced by acceptable trees with a dense canopy so we can continue to enjoy a shady park.
In the middle photo what appear to be young eucalypts are without understory and therefore have a good chance of growing to maturity without the danger of being burned down by itinerant arsonists. The open lawns at the Telegraph Station offer something similar but with older trees. There are about 200km of wild river south of Heavitree Gap where biodiversity reigns as the uncontested natural order. Nothing is being lost by claiming this short section for the town.
And finally to the money shot, the bottom photo, and what a magnificent, hoary old man he is! And so vulnerable. When the pictured understory dries off, hopefully the private citizens mentioned, or the Town Council if necessary, will remove it before it builds up into an ignitable fuel load that an arsonist could send roaring up into all those character revealing dead limbs.
I think it was along this stretch of river that one of the pictured tree’s equally venerable and vulnerable companions didn’t make it through this year’s fire season. The arsonists struck, the fire took hold and the tree either fell or had to be pushed over. When I last rode down that bike path I didn’t notice the carcass so unless I missed it, I assume it has been removed.
This debate brings the story of Pandora’s Box to mind. Alice will never again be what she was. By denying that we merely prevent her from becoming all she could be.


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