More than a dozen dead pine trees are being removed from the Yarralumla Dog Park, to make way for new breeds and, hopefully, more sunlight.
The park, on the edge of Westbourne Woods, was made up of Pinus radiata, a common, fast-growing pine with a relatively short life-span.
ACT Urban Treescapes manager Rachael Dawes said the dead trees were being removed for both safety and aesthetic reasons, and she and her team had plans to replant them with different species.
The tree removals are being staged over the next few months, with trainee arborists using the removals as an opportunity to practice dismantling trees that are already dead.
The process of replanting could be less than straightforward, though, as the area’s most prominent users - dogs - are less than friendly when it comes to keeping trees thriving.
Ms Dawes said not only were dogs rambunctious, they also had particularly toxic urine.
“You're planting in a dog park, so it's a highly mobile site, there're dogs running around, so we have to protect against physical damage,” she said.
“It's a very compacted site, so you'll have to do some soil improvement and protection against further compaction, and also you're dealing with dog urine, which is highly acidic and not a friend of any vegetation in high dosages, so when you've got lots of dogs in one area, it's not great."
Another is that part of the park was is a designated heritage area
“Any replanting will have to be in consultation with ACT heritage. They generally don't like to change,” Ms Dawes said.
But Pinus radiata has been declared an invasive species, because of its rampant production, which means a case will have to be made to plant more.
The trees were planted in Canberra’s early days, and were well-suited to Canberra’s harsh climate.
“Pinus radiata has got lots of valuable traits - it's actually a really good tree for many things,” she said.
“Because it's a fast-growing tree, it's very tolerant of Canberra's conditions. Canberra is a really hard place to grow, it's hot, it’s dry, it’s cold, so it was a really successful early planting in the trials that they were doing in early ACT.”
She said Charles Weston, the horticulturalist responsible for the early afforestation of Canberra, had originally dreamed of filling the woods with Californian redwoods, but soon realised that they wouldn’t survive.
“They like about 2000 mils of water a year, so we're never going to get that there, and the ones that we have of that species are struggling,” she said.
“They don't look like they do in California, that's for sure.
But Pinus radiata also comes from California, and they don’t look anything like they do at home either, they look much better here.”
She said the pines were good for production, and had been developed in the ACT with selective breeding - “breedings the good ones with the good ones to get a better one”.
“They're still in use in production pine plantations, but outside of that, we could get a permit from EPS and replant this pine, that does happen, but there are some other species that are very similar that we could use,” she said.
“But we'd also like to see some deciduous broad-leaf trees.
"It's my dog park, it's where I go, and it's really cold in winter, so we'd like to see a bit more of a mix.”
The ACT government plans to begin replantings in the park in spring.