THE Canary Island Palms (Phoenix canariensis), such a feature of the Park Road side of Bulli Park, have majestically lined its border for almost a century.
Despite the harsh salt laden windy environment, and often, during their younger years, becoming a meal for horses and dairy cattle, most of the original plantings have surprisingly survived.
In fact some of the palms have even self seeded, and smaller trees have sprouted from their base.
The palms are known for their dangerous, sharp spikes at the base of the fronds. As a student at St Josephs Catholic Primary School in the 1970s, when Bulli Park was our lunch time playground, one of these spikes, about 15cms in length I recall, penetrated through the ankle of a boy playing around one of the trees. On the good side though, the trees always provided plenty of fronds for Palm Sunday decorations at the St Josephs Catholic Church during Easter.
The Bulli Citizens Progress Society first suggested to Bulli Shire Council to plant the palms in the park during July 1920. As a result Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee approved £30 to purchase the palms, fencing and tree-guards for the northern side of Bulli Park in August 1921.
The South Coast Times reported on Friday February 10 1928:
Correspondence. From Bulli Progress Association pointing out that palms planted on the northern side of the Bulli park have outgrown the tree guards and are in danger of being destroyed by horses in the Park. It was suggested that the only way to overcome the difficulty without closing the Park to horses is to provide a fence sufficiently distant from the palms to prevent the horses reaching over and eating the tops. If the council will provide the timber the Association will provide the necessary labour. The cleric said there was £19 in credit to the Parks and Beaches account (to erect the fence).
In 1932 the lessee of the Bulli Beach Kiosk was given the responsibility of looking after the palms and Norfolk Island Pines planted along the beach front. However, keeping the palms alive must have been hard work, with cattle often wandering into the park to graze.
Illawarra Mercury reported on Friday December 1 1933:
Bulli Shire Council proceeded against Arthur Strachan for having allowed his cows to stray on the Bulli Park reserve. Mr. Cox appeared for the Council, and Mr. Maguire for defendant, who pleaded not guilty.
John Joseph Hiles gave evidence that he resides opposite the reserve, and on 5th November last, at about 5.30 p.m., he saw eight dairy cows on the area, a youth, who said his name was Arthur Strachan, being in charge of the cows. William Henry Mitchell, Shire Clerk, gave evidence of defendant speaking to him at the Council Chambers, when latter mentioned that he understood Council was going to prosecute him for his cows straying and witness had replied that such was the case as the cows had been doing a lot of damage.
Defendant had added that he would be satisfied if all owners of cattle were treated the same. Mr. Maguire submitted there was not a case to answer, as ownership of the cows had not been proven. John Joseph Hiles was recalled, but stated he could not swear who owned the cows. Defendant stated he was a dairyman, residing at Bulli, but the cows in ques-tion were owned by his wife and not by himself. The magistrate’ stated that the case could not succeed, owing to the ques-tlon of ownership, but the charge could be altered to defendant having the custody of eight cows found trespas-sing on Bulli Park reserve.
Mr. Cox accepted the suggestion and he had tho charge altered accordingly. Mr. Maguire entered a plea of not guilty to the amended charge. He contended that having in custody would apply only to the person actually in charge of the cows at the time, otherwise the owner is liable. Mr. Cox pointed out that defendant’s cows are constantly trespassing on the Park reserve, and were there even that very morning.
Defendant has only 30 acres of grazing land for all his cows, and consequently he makes use of the park reserve, where palm trees are growing. Mr. Maguire replied that defendant finds it necessary to have to pass through tho Park reserve with the cows to reach his own paddock. The magistrate inflicted a fine of £2, with £2/2/0 court costs, or nine days’ imprisonment, with hard labour, three weeks being allowed in which to pay. Addressing defendant, the magis-trate emphasised that stock must be kept off the reserve, and that such a reserve cannot be turned into a grazing area.