The genesis of this replacement memorial avenue was the need to accommodate and honour important community history, generate public interest from outside the district, kindle local civic vitality and resolve on going tree management issues associated with the original avenue, located along Wellington Road.
The establishment of a World War One soldier’s memorial for the township of Mount Barker was first proposed in May 1918. It wasn’t until the early 1920’s after much community deliberation and fund raising the Avenue of Honour was planted either side of Wellington Road, from the show grounds to the district hospital. Originally, Desert Ash trees (Fraxinus angustifolia subsp. angustifolia) were ordered from a Government nursery in Mount Gambier and later other trees were planted, which are the Plane trees Platanus X acerifolia near the hospital.
Over the years the avenue has been interfered with and significantly devalued most notably by the installation of overhead power lines on the southern side of the road. The vegetation management for power line clearance over time, had caused irreversible damage of the trees structure, from initially having the original canopy completely removed (most likely at the time of installation of the lines) and then continuously being topped after this.
Over the years some trees have been removed due to road widening and commercial property developments.
The situation today is an expanding urban environment in conflict with a disfigured and eroded avenue of trees which no longer serves as an appropriate monument to the soldiers from the Mount Barker community who served their country in World War One.
Financially the Wellington Road trees represent ‘bad debt’ where they are costing rate payers to maintain the ugly epicormic regrowth constantly growing into the traffic clearance envelope on the southern side of the road.
The consideration of road traffic safety is becoming a focal point for the avenue with a few known traffic accidents and anecdotally many near misses reported due to line of sight issues. It appears they are occurring from the southern side of the road due to the greater amount of traffic accessing the commercial and residential properties and the number of large trunks directly adjacent the entry and egress points of these facilities and residences.
With the subsequent proposal to decommission the Wellington Road World War One Avenue, the new avenue within Keith Stephenson Park is dedicated to soldiers from Mount Barker who lost their life during the conflicts of World War One and World War Two, with a single tree to represent each fallen soldier. There’s also a single tree dedicated to the members of the Australian Medical Corps 1914-1919 (inspired by the two nurses and one doctor from the district who served where Australians were engaged in battle); and a single tree planted in memory of the animals serving on behalf of Australia and service personnel overseas and at home 1914 – 1919.
A waist-high timber post adjacent each tree supports a commemorative plaque for each of the fallen.
A total of 74 Bull Bay (Magnolia grandiflora) memorial trees have been planted. They follow a route on along a meandering, linear trail, from the rear of the Wallis Cinema Complex and nearby Skate Park at the northern edge of Keith Stephenson Park; diverge to skirt the southern edge of the lake feature; and continue in a south-westerly direction along the edge of the Western Flat Creek, concluding at the intersection with May Road.
The Keith Stephenson Park location provides a public open space conducive to this memorial, recognised and respected for its purpose. The park protects this living memorial from urban development pressures, to ensure an uncompromised and lasting legacy for future generations.
This new memorial avenue was dedicated at a ceremony on Sunday 15th November 2020, on site at the Keith Stephenson Park, Mount Barker. Officiating on the day was . . .