Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Trees being destroyed in our city's parks
I have been doing some work with the police and city watch about ongoing crime and ASB issues in the south end of Newsham Park - near the bandstand. I went up to the bandstand on September 17th with an officer from City Space to assess the ongoing ASB issues and our combined efforts to secure a CCTV camera for the bandstand area. More on this on another day, when I hope to have some good news.
I was horrified to see the destruction of the trees around the bandstand and took copious photographs, although these two are the ones that show the devastation most clearly.
This damage has been caused by thoughtless owners of dogs, mainly so called "trophy dogs" which are those who are kept because they are a status symbol rather than through any love of dogs - they tend to be bulldogs and mastifs. We have all seen them, walked by aggressive looking young men who threaten when challenged. The owners encourage the dogs to tear at the bark on trees in the hope it will strengthen their teeth, jaws and throat muscles, although actually what happens is that the dogs get splinters in their mouths and hurt themselves. And the other thing that happens is that the trees suffer and die.
The other favourite activity is to hold a branch down, towards the ground, encourage the dog to latch on and then let the branch go, so it swings in the air, taking the dog up with it, again with the misguided hope of strengthening the dog's fighting abilities.
I was saddened to see that the latest Kensington Regeneration magazine for young people actually contained a story from a young contributor who herself encourages her dog to do this. No blame should be attached to her for copying what she sees around her, but I do hope that the organisers of the magazine, who I know read this blog, will talk to her and the other young people about the negative aspects of this behaviour and will not repeat this in future issues.
The Parks Department have explained to me that they cannot treat trees that have been attacked in this way and that having tried to use sleeves and fencing off in other parks (Stanley Park for instance) where this is also a big problem, nothing works. These trees will die. In fact since I took my photos 6 weeks ago, a tree in the bandstand has been cut down with a chainsaw, or similar by someone other than the official gardeners. If we are not careful, if we do not act, if we do not educate, then there will no trees left around the bandstand and indeed the general tree-stock will fall.
It is great that the city is planting thousands of trees in honour of the capital of culture (they took the number of trees they should plant from the size of the turnout at the event that launched the Capital of Culture, so with my three visitors, we are good for 4 trees), but they weren't planning on planting them in Newsham Park or Phythian Park.
I asked the head of Parks, at our regular monthly meeting in September, just after I took the photos, to encourage LCC to undertake a massive education campaign, ideally through the auspices of the local press. He promised to talk to Councillor Turner about this, although had not been able to do so as of last week.
We are killing our trees, and in a city with a massive number of terraced houses with no gardens, we can ill afford this threat to trees, given the amount of carbon dioxide in the air in city centres.
It is hard to challenge scary men with scary dogs when you see them killing trees, so I don't suggest you do that, but if you could note what details you can about what you see, and pass them to me, I will see that CitySafe adds this to the considerable database they have already been building for me, over recent months.
And finally can I also pay tribute to Michael Ryan, a concerned resident in the area of Newsham Park, who independently identified this problem in October and was good enough to share his thoughts with me and others. We work best when we work together.