Goodbye to gardens' historic archway

A CYPRESS pine arch believed to be more than 100 years old was torn down in Warrnambool Botanic Gardens yesterday because of safety concerns.

The clearance triggered mixed reactions from the community with some, like nearby resident Diane Mugavin, describing it as a sad end to an era. 

“It was an icon which had been enjoyed by generations of people,” Ms Mugavin said.

“I got quite a shock to see it being pulled apart.”

However, Friends of the Gardens secretary Mandy King and curator John Sheely explained that the arch’s two golden Monterey cypress trees were in bad shape and were a risk to public safety.

They said the decision had been made in consultation with Heritage Victoria.

“It’s been a necessary difficult decision to reach because we’re removing an element of the garden that people are quite attached to,” Mr Sheely said.

“We are aware that many Warrnambool people have fond memories of either walking through the arch or playing in it as children.

“A positive outcome of the removal will be that people will have a clear view towards a nearby avenue of Canary Island palm trees which were part of William Guilfoyle’s original design in 1877.” 

Ms King said there were concerns that children climbing inside the arch could be injured by fragile branches or rusty metal framework.

“The trees are old and had to be removed. We’ve got to move on,” she said. “The arch has lost its original integrity.”

According to a conservation report prepared in 1995 the arch was a feature in the late 1800s and framed panoramas across the gardens.

The report recommended two cypress arches at the gardens be conserved, either by reshaping or replanting.

However,  Ms King said  reshaping became impossible as cutting back severely would have killed the trees. 

“The arch may be old, but it was not part of the original Guilfoyle design,” she said.

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