About the St James Park Master Plan

We are developing a Master Plan for St James Park on Burwood Road, Hawthorn. This will help us manage and maintain this historic park in the coming years.

The park has been a vital green space for the Hawthorn community for more than 160 years. It has kept most of its 19th century tree-lined avenues and path layout. It also has sports facilities, a playground and a war memorial.

The Master Plan will help us make improvements to the park, while conserving this piece of Boroondara history.

It will give us a way to:

  • protect the park’s current design and heritage
  • improve the park’s facilities, such as seating options, lighting and signage.

The Master Plan will also include a Tree Management Plan. This will establish the short-, medium- and long-term needs of the trees and tree canopy goals for the park. It will help us work out how we can manage the removal and replacement of trees that have come to the end of their life.

Our work so far

We have completed research to better understand the existing infrastructure, facilities, heritage and condition of St James Park and its trees.

Like all living things, trees have a lifespan. While healthy, mature trees provide shade, cooling, and stormwater capture, trees nearing the end of their life don’t offer these benefits. They can also be a safety risk to people and can damage public and private property.

Our experts have carefully assessed each tree in St James Park. They looked at their age and condition, and identified trees that need to be pruned or replaced in the short-, medium-, and long-term.

We also looked at how the City of Melbourne has managed its heritage tree removal and replacement. You can find their report in the Document library.

We will use this research and responses from our community to help shape the draft Master Plan.

Advice we have received

We worked with a heritage consultant to gather information that will help shape the draft Master Plan. Their advice will also make sure any work to remove and replace the trees won’t affect the park’s heritage and character. The consultant helped us identify a list of tree species that meet heritage criteria. From this list, we identified 3 species that would also be suitable for the future climate.

1. Celtis australis, also known as Southern Nettle Tree or European Nettle Tree:

  • medium-sized tree from Southern Europe
  • grows up to 15 metres high with a spread of up to 9 metres
  • autumn colour is yellow
  • has good tolerance to wind and hot dry summer conditions.

2. Quercus castaneifolia, also known as Chestnut-leaved Oak:

  • medium-to-large sized forest tree from Northern Iran
  • grows up to 20 metres high with a spread of up to 20 metres
  • has good tolerance to wind
  • autumn colour is bronze to brown
  • will benefit from irrigation in hot dry conditions.

3. Zelkova serrata, also known as Japanese Zelkova:

  • medium-sized forest tree from China, Korea and Japan
  • grows up to 20 metres high with a spread of up 15 metres
  • leaves turn bronze and orange to deep red in autumn

Zelkova is a member of the elm family but is not significantly affected by Elm Leaf Beetle.

Heritage advice recommends that any planting in the garden beds leading up to the 1929 war memorial should be low in height (below 600mm) to keep a clear view of the path up to the memorial.

Heritage advice also recommends that the southern former petanque bowling area be preserved as an open space for community use.

This area hasn’t been used for several years and has heritage elements, such as views:

  • across and between the former green
  • of other bowling greens
  • of the club house
  • of the park.

You can read the St James Park Heritage Advice in the Document library.

What we need to do

There are elm trees that have come to the end of their life in St James Park. Replacing these trees will make the park avenues safer and improve the canopy cover as the trees mature over time.

For the best chance of success, we need to remove and replace these trees in groups. In the past, we have tried replacing aging trees one-at-a-time along the northern avenue of the park. Unfortunately, these trees haven’t grown well. This is because younger trees that were planted in dry conditions have had to compete with the nearby larger established trees for water, nutrients and light.

We also need to prepare the sites for the new plantings. This means there will be trees missing from the park for a while after those that need to be replaced are removed. It’s important to make sure the soils are improved before new trees are planted.

We need to replace the trees in the central diagonal avenue with a different species that will be better suited to the climate now and into the future. We will start removing trees and aim to plant new trees in the central diagonal avenue during the tree planting season between May and September 2022.

Between 2023–25, we will replace the elm trees at the end of their life in the southern avenue with new elms. This avenue has more shelter and will still be suitable for elms – unlike the less sheltered central diagonal avenue.

When arborists prune deadwood from aging trees, they might find out there is more damage to a tree than what they could see from the ground. For example, a large split in a top branch that puts people’s safety at risk. As much as possible, arborists will try to save the tree. However, in extreme cases a tree may need to be removed. This means we may find other trees outside of the central diagonal avenue and southern avenue that need to be removed and replaced.

We are looking at other ways to improve the park, including:

  • planting new garden beds along the path to the war memorial.
  • planting new trees in open lawn areas across the park to provide more shade and comfort for the community.

3 ways to have your say

We want your feedback to help us shape a draft Master Plan, which will include the Tree Management Plan.

We want to know:

  • how you use the park and what you enjoy most about the park
  • your preferred approach for replacing the elm trees in the central diagonal avenue and in the southern avenue
  • which new tree species you would prefer to see planted in the central diagonal avenue
  • your preferred option for replanting the garden beds near the war memorial
  • how you would like to see the southern former petanque bowling area used in future.