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haig park feature

A golden opportunity to make a green gem sparkle

Catherine Carter

The topic of Haig Park’s potential has been the source of recent discussion with Philippa Moss’ article on the potential for renewal inciting important discussion within the community. 

Now, former Executive Director of The Property Council Catherine Carter takes up the baton…

More than 100 years ago, the co-creator of New York City’s Central Park undertook a study to see if parks enhance property values.

From 1856 to 1873, Frederick Law Olmsted tracked the value of properties immediately adjacent to Central Park to justify the then $13 million spent on its creation. Over the 17-year period, Olmsted found a $209 million increase in the value of the properties overlooking the park.

Olmsted’s study also found that the increases in property taxes from the uplift in value created by Central Park was $4 million more than the money spent in annual debt repayments for the land and improvement. In other words, in building Central Park, New York City made a profit.

Olmsted’s study is just one of dozens confirming that green space is not just ‘nice to have’ – it can also be a source of wealth creation and economic growth.

And this is why we shouldn’t be neglecting the precious green gems in our cities.

Just recently, regular contributor to HerCanberra Philippa Moss wondered why we weren’t investing more into Haig Park.

That belt of trees at the top of Lonsdale Street has become a place to be avoided, rather than visited. Initially created as a windbreak, the park is home to more than 7,000 trees and, as Philippa says, “some of Canberra’s more shady characters”.

And now, it seems the ACT Government is wanting to emphasise this sinister and shady side to the park, with “dramatic lighting” inside the park which highlights the shapes of trees and, heaven forbid, the shadows.

Such a strategy infers that what Haig Park needs is some mood lighting, when in fact it is already a place that can feel ominous and scary. Surely we can find a way to reimagine this green space – which actually accounts for 18 per cent of Braddon’s entire area – as a safer, more inviting place for people?

A moody lighting design ignores one of the greatest challenges of the park – and that is the fact there are just far too many trees. The 14 dense rows of pine trees and cedars make it almost impenetrable, and certainly not a safe place for women to wander after dusk, commuters to walk to work, or families to frolic.

Heritage Council chairman David Flannery has recently said the heritage significance of the park rests with its trees and that council is reluctant to see any removed. However, he concedes that safety is a concern, and it’s here that regular maintenance of Haig Park is key, starting with pruning overhanging tree branches and mowing long grass.

As Braddon increases in densification, and everyone from hipsters to corporate high flyers, families to retirees move in, the preciousness of our green space becomes more acute. Our opportunity is to find a manageable compromise that retains the integrity of the heritage listing, but transforms Haig Park into a place that the entire community can enjoy.

Since Olmsted conducted his study, Central Park has evolved into one of the world’s most-loved green spaces. The ACT Government has an opportunity to create a green gem that enhances the community and delivers economic uplift. It’s a golden opportunity to create a green gem that sparkles for generations.

Image of ‘an empty chair sitting…‘ via Shutterstock

Catherine Carter

A lover of books and beauty, a seasoned traveller and creative thinker, Catherine is passionate about Canberra. Catherine is intensely interested in how Canberrans can work together to create an amazing city, and how our built environment can provide the places our community needs to flourish. The mother of twins, Catherine is committed to diversity, and supporting and promoting the careers of women. She was the recipient of the Telstra Business Women's ACT Community and Government Award in 2010. More about the Author

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