Living in the inner city, even a young city like Canberra, puts us near to enjoyable places with an interesting history. Haig Park is very close to the apartment where we live now and to our new townhouse. It was established in 1921 as “windshelter break” to protecting Canberra’s earliest suburbs from strong winds and dust. The location for the new city was bare and windswept. The park is an urban forest of densely planted predominantly exotic trees on the northern edge of downtown Canberra (Civic).
Haig Park’s formal design of trees planted in parallel rows is unique in Australia. The planting was designed by Charles Weston, Canberra’s first Superintendent of Parks and Gardens. Weston had been in the National Capital since 1913 and so had first hand experience of the cold, hot and dusty winds of the site for the city and the role which trees could play. Weston laid out the massive “shelter break” in fourteen rows using predominantly exotic evergreen and deciduous trees. Over 7,000 trees were planted in 1921, including more than 2,000 tall, quickly growing Pinus radiata.
There are also many Roman cypress, Cupressus sempervirens ‘Stricta’, perhaps reflecting a desire to remember the many Australians who had not returned from World War I. This cypress is traditional symbol of death and immortality. The park was named after the death in 1928 of Field Marshall Haig, commander of British Empire Forces in World War I.
The park’s historic nature has been maintained. Most of the short lived Pinus radiata have been replaced in the past 10 years, but the original design remains. Haig Park is popular for lunchtime office workers, weekend picnics, and fitness activities.
(Source: Gray, J. The Historical and Cultural Background of Selected Urban Parks in Canberra, 1997.)