This is the text of the full submission to the Molong Advancement Group on Molong Town Enhancement by Les & Julie Dean.
The submission is in the context of Cabonne Council’s Village Enhancement Plan fund.
Enhancing the Visual Amenity of Molong
Enhance the verb: is to improve or increase the value, quality or intensity of something
The why, how and end result must surely be considered when undertaking a project of this size and complexity.
Why enhance our town, Molong?
We all agree that our town can do with enhancing for a variety of reasons, if nothing else but for the quality of our lifestyle and pride in our natural and cultural environment. But there’s more, we need to keep a viable, vibrant town where our standard of living is secure, where we have the amenities that suit our needs, the businesses to sustain us providing jobs and security. Molong has one big advantage in our endeavour to keep ourselves secure and attract business to the Bank St precinct, LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.
Molong is at the crossroads for three highways passing through to/from Sydney, Canberra, Wellington/ Dubbo and beyond, thus stopping traffic and customers would seem a given aim. The RTA monitoring station on the Mitchell Highway north of Eurimbla records 2384 vehicles per day for 2017. Are we taking the necessary steps to take advantage of this amount of through traffic? There are some amongst us whom think that stopping tourists to take a leisurely stroll and admire our historical buildings would be enough, but that is not nearly enough.
The paint the silo and tank concept still has enormous appeal for many people, but to go with this venture must also be huge improvements in the streetscape along the Mitchell highway and main-street.
Enhancing the Streetscape
This can be achieved with a holistic plan of
- organised alfresco dining areas
- more and better parking
- further attractions
There are several considerations to be observed, including-
- Cabonne Councils species preferences (Molong Tree Matrix),
- Underground services i.e. Telstra and water mains,
- Overhead services i.e. electricity poles and wires (Advance Energy Clearance Regulations)
- Clearance from the highway and walkways,
- Visual enhancement or impedance.
To select a suitable species of street tree several issues need to be addressed, including-
- Evergreen or deciduous,
- Frost and drought resistance,
- Disease resistance,
- Ultimate size, and spread
- Adaptability to arboriculture practices (directional pruning and lopping)
- Overall appeal.
Taking a drive from the railway crossing in bank street, look left and down to the creek, then go along Betts Street to Rotary Park, and the vegetation will indicate to you that a combination of very dry conditions and severe frosts have devastated native evergreen species. They are mostly frost hardy bottlebrushes and some eucalypts, but the continued dry conditions will probably kill them. So despite my preference for natives, it would seem appropriate to select a deciduous species in the first place. As indicated previously a variety of Mop-top tree which ticks all the above boxes is my preference. Mop-top trees are marketed as a standard two metre high trunk with the appropriate decorative tree species grafted on top, in essence a ready- made plant feature.
MOP TOP ROBINA Robina psudoacacia inermis
- small to medium size grafted deciduous tree with a compact rounded head of small pinnate bright green leaves, lush green foliage which grows quite fast.
- Excellent feature tree for small gardens and suited to container planting.
- Prefers a full sun position and a good prune to retain dense form.
- Tolerant of poor soil however prefers a moist well drained soil. A very hardy tree that can tolerate tough conditions. Grafted onto 2m root stock for around $100.
The Mop Top Robina is an amazingly versatile tree. Naturally topiarised, with regular pruning it will maintain a balled head perfect as a formal entrance to a garden, a home or town entrance avenue. The ball provides lovely structure but the branches and leaves are soft which means the head of the tree does flutter in the breeze. And the size of the head can be controlled.
To achieve a consistent thick ‘mop’ the head of the tree can be pruned hard each year right down to the knuckle. It looks pretty harsh but don’t despair! (I personally don’t think this is necessary) Prune them when bare in winter and you will have a healthy tight head of foliage when summer comes around. Less common but equally attractive is to leave the head of the Mop Top unpruned. Where space is not a problem this will allow for a woollier, less rounded appearance as shown in the attached pictures of a street side cafe in Bowral and a formal driveway avenue.
It is quite important to not disturb the root system of Mop Top trees once established with deep cultivation, as this can encourage suckering. All the trees planted along Mitchell highway including McMahon Park may be encircled with an edging of small local limestone rock out to the drip line. Inside this border should be planted out with perennial flowering border plants such as Pinks, Phlox, Canberra Grass etc. This plant list should be carried forward into the redevelopment of Bank Street. The three tiered garden structure in the rose garden near the Railway Station can be similarly planted out with perennial border plants and bulbs.
The Alan McMahon Park needs a feature which reflects Molong life and history. We suggest several sculptured Packhams Pears similar to those in the parkland surrounding the Art Gallery & Museum in Canberra, see photo, with a large sign explaining the story of Packhams Pear and again several Mop Top trees. One hurdle to be overcome is restrictions for any development in flood prone areas. The newly planted oak trees in this area should be transplanted to a more suitable location before they become established.
Organised alfresco dining areas
Again the question arises, ‘what constitutes a suitable species of street tree to plant where people in large numbers congregate i.e. locals and visitors mingle to shop, browse and eat plus provide some shade for vehicles?’
Every time I refer back to my previous attempt to have the Liquid Amber trees in Bank street replaced, I am reminded of my old friend Bob (now deceased) who was quite concerned about my assertion that some elderly person would roll their foot on one of the golf ball sized seed pods, have a nasty fall and end up in hospital. That will probably be me, he told me and my eyesight is so poor I can’t even see my shoes, let alone avoid one of those pods. I am afraid to come down to the shops whilst these things hang on the trees (several months of the year)
Yes, I would still prefer them to be removed and something more appropriate done to the business precinct. To come up with a appropriate tree plan, and at the same time improve the ambiance and appeal to the public to stay awhile in the business area. The following major works would need to be approved by Council and business owners/operators.
This type of development has been done in other centres and has much to be admired. See attached photos.
- Liquid Amber trees cut down and the stumps ground down below ground level and the hole paved over.
- Those businesses that now have or are likely to have alfresco dining to have installed a street-side dining area similar to that pictured at Bowral. There are five areas proposed with a total of nine shops that provide meals, drinks or confectionary of various kinds.
- Each street-side dining area to have 2 Mop Top trees planted, one either side or on the street-side corner.
- Kerbing to be installed around perimeter of dining area to be of concrete and tapered, not square and sharp.
- The area between the kerbing and decorative fence to be planted out with colourful border plants.
- Decorative fencing installed to protect diners and as a visual to reversing parkers.
- Robust but pleasant table and chairs to finish off dining area. Shop owners of course will fan out additional seating as at present.
- Entire area including footpath to be stencilled with pattern similar to cobblestone in Europe (Tuscany). It is interesting that a former Council stencilled the footpath in front of Council chambers down to the Yarn Market but no further.
- Having done the measurements, five of these areas will not take up as much space for parking as the present trees.
- The view from either end of the street will be much more inviting, more coordinated and signal ‘open for business’
More and better parking
There several shops in the Bank Street Business Precinct that have sufficient room behind their business to accommodate parking space for their customers, most don’t bother despite having access and I suspect having a requirement in their DA. In my recollection none even have access available from the shop.
The space for parking at the railway station can be far better managed, with parkers unsure where to park resulting in much wasted space and no signage on highway approaches for either cars or caravans. The whole area needs a resurface to start the process and then designated line markings. In addition-
- One way traffic, (similar to Orange Railway Station) with designated laneway for busses, cars and vans to enter at northern end near crossing with car spaces marked as appropriate.
- The southern end (exit only) opposite Minnamurra is far too wide and the space for the exit lane needs to be reduced. The only way to achieve this is to erect a decorative fence (similar to the proposed Bank St development) to link up with McMahon Park. This would allow for several car/caravan spaces to be marked here.
Getting back to ‘Enhancing Molong’, surely drawing in tourists, travellers and generally getting people to either plan a visit or just break their journey, then painting a huge mural on both the water tank and silo must fill the bill. We feel it is terribly important to target those 2347 vehicles travelling on the Mitchell Highway each day, with who knows how many occupants to take a break in our town.
- Molong silo is the first grain silo west of the sandstone curtain on the Mitchell Highway. Without this as a major attraction, Molong has very few attractions apart some older style buildings, probably heritage listed which may attract some history buffs.
- Molong does not feature to any extent in any of the Central West’s tourist magazines, which can be picked up free at tourist information centres, motels, and eating establishments (Maccas etc.) Congrats to the Two Fat Ladies clothing owners who did recently appear in the magazine.
- Along with other Cabonne centres, we are permanently attached to Orange advertising, i.e. Orange Wine Week, Australian National Field Days etc. despite a large proportion of the vineyards and the ANFD site being in Cabonne, so we need to differentiate from this by being more proactive. Imagine roadway signage east of the Orange bypass (still in Cabonne) showing:
- Molong Open For Business
- 40km to food, shops, fuel
- Caravan Park & Cabins, Motel, B&B
- Toilets, parks & children’s playground
- Silo Murals, Street Art , Craft
- Easy Parking, RV friendly
Another possible sign
- Molong Services
- Age Care
- Real Estate
- Heated Pool
Of course these advertising signs (if approved) need to be placed on all of the main arterial roadways.
This document is intended to be a holistic approach to ‘enhancing’ our town. Selection of project parts for immediate implementation with the intent to perhaps return and do the (too) hard elements sometime, would undermine the whole concept. It would be our intent to participate in a submission for funding which needs to be done asap. The next step of the project planning after approval would be to do costings and quotes.
It is appropriate for MAG to have the first appraisal of this plan, please consider it carefully.
Les & Julie Dean