Playground tree ‘danger’

by Luke Voogt

A six metre branch “miraculously” missed children as it “crashed” to the ground at a Belmont playground recently, according to a resident calling for its removal.

“There’s a much larger branch still overhanging the playground,” Highton resident Geoff James told the Independent.

“There is a risk that another branch will fall – it’s extremely dangerous.

“Considering the large number of families attending the Sunday market it’s miraculous that there were no children using the playground at the time.”

Mr James’ neighbour witnessed the branch fall from the river red gum about 10.30am on January 5.

“I heard the bough crack and immediately the limb fell,” the neighbour said in an email to Mr James.

“There was no wind.”

The branch was six metres long, 15cm in diameter and in “full health”, the neighbour said.

For several years Mr James has campaigned for the removal of another river red gum near his home in St Catherines Drive, Highton.

River red gums, along with some other eucalypts, have the ominous nickname of ‘Widow Maker’ for their anecdotal tendency to drop branches.

A deceased former resident planted the tree about 30 years ago, according to Mr James, who has lived in the street for more than 40 years.

“It’s been a problem for the last 10 or 15 years because it’s gotten to be huge,” the 74-year-old said.

“Because one of the branches overhangs our driveway I’m very conscious of it.”

Mr James had collected about 15 small branches that had fallen recently and complained to council numerous times, he said.

“Every time one of those falls I collect it and photograph it. We are concerned that a limb will fall and somebody will be killed or injured.”

Some were “big enough to kill a person” as they had dropped from about 20m, Mr James said.

“I’m very concerned that council won’t recognise the safety of residents over the need to have a huge tree in a residential street.”

But Geelong council’s city services director Guy Wilson-Browne said council arborists assessed that neither tree warranted removal.

Arborists last inspected the trees surrounding Barwon Valley Activity Centre last October and identified no defects or works required, he said.

A “ground-based visual assessment” of the tree on January 9, following a community member’s request, identified no defects requiring pruning or removal, Mr Wilson-Browne said.

Council prioritised assessing trees posing the highest risk and would remove any that were dangerous, he said.

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