Armidale wouldn't be Armidale without the trees in Central Park, Armidale Regional Council CEO Susan Law believes - but the drought has put those trees in peril.
Some have stood there for more than a century, since the heritage-listed park was established in 1880. Others are among the rarest in the country, including three 140-year-old Lucombe oaks from the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. The park also has one of the state's best conifer collections.
But those trees are showing significant signs of water stress. At this time of year, Ms Law said, we should see a resurgence of oak trees - but they're not leafing as much as they should, and those few leaves have started to brown.
That's why council began a rescue plan today, using recycled water and other environmentally and drought-friendly measures.
"We've had a lot of community feedback and concern about the 140-year-old trees," Ms Law said. "We want to make sure that we can preserve those, and help them get through the drought."
When council moved to Level 5 water restrictions on October 1, it stopped watering the city's parks. Garden and horticultural clubs and members of the public are keen to make sure those trees survive the drought. Council, too, want to make sure drought restrictions don't affect the heritage nature of the park, one of the few surviving from the Victorian era.
"We debated long and hard about this, because we've been robust in saying to people you can't water your gardens," Ms Law said. "Some of these trees have been here over 100 years. It seemed a real shame if we couldn't find a way of preserving them."
Council will source water from its dam at the new landfill to water the trees. The backwash water from the treatment plant contains vegetable matter and sediment, mayor Simon Murray explained; it's untreated and unsuitable for domestic use, but will be perfect for irrigating the trees. Council will give the trees about 5mm of water each week, until their health improves.
This morning, council started aerating the park soil so the trees can absorb moisture more easily, including from today and tomorrow's rain. From 7am, council's Agrifarm aerator pierced and shook the soil, so water can reach the trees' roots more easily.
Clay-rich top dressing and decomposed mulch will be put on root zones to help the trees access water.
"This will mean parts of Central Park will look a bit different," Cr Murray said. "Some of the open grass area will be replaced by mulch, but there will still be plenty of open space for people to sit and enjoy the park."
Council will also start a 'purple ribbon' campaign on Tuesday. "This is the bit I really like!" Ms Law said.
People will be able to use their greywater to water the trees; purple ribbons will show which are the most in need. Many people have expressed an interest in doing this, Ms Law said.
"We obviously strongly discourage using fresh, treated water on the trees," Cr Murray said. "However, residents are encouraged to use suitable recycled water, such as water captured in buckets while showering, to help irrigate these valuable trees."
For further information about the water restrictions and tips to save water, visit the Water Restrictions section on the Council's website.