You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘green infrastructure’ tag.

North Newtown streetscape providing lots of shade

North Newtown streetscape providing lots of shade.  This is a normal streetscape for this area.

Compare with a street in Dulwich Hill that actually has many street trees

Compare with a street in Dulwich Hill that actually has many street trees

There is an interesting article in The Conversation written by Prof. Rod Keenan & Benjamin Preston, both from the University of Melbourne.

Some points in the article –

  • Victoria currently has an average of 9 days per year of temperatures above 35C.  No action on greenhouse emissions will likely result in an average of 21 days a year with temperatures above 35C by 2070.
  • “Combine that with increasing urban density, more hard surfaces & less greenery, & a larger, older & more multicultural population, & the potential impacts from heatwaves start to multiply rapidly.”   Think of the development already in Marrickville municipality & the huge amount of development to come.

The Authors suggest two ways to help mitigate this & I think these are applicable Australia-wide –

  1. Increasing the ‘green infrastructure’ by 10%.  Green infrastructure means street trees, parks, green roofs, green walls & retaining water.

I’d suggest 10% is the absolute minimum, but can you imagine the positive change if the Marrickville urban forest was increased by 10%.

The City of Melbourne is planning on increasing their urban forest canopy cover from 22% to 40%. The City of Sydney is aiming to increase their urban forest by 50% by 2030 (just 16-years away) to help lower the urban heat island effect.

  • 2. Education.

“Health awareness programs can promote related benefits such as improved air quality; planners can reduce the red tape involved in planting street trees; local governments can identify priority neighbourhoods for development, protect existing greenery, & implement water-sensitive urban design.” 

“Increasing green infrastructure will also require the use of private space – one major challenge will be to give private landowners the incentive to keep or install greenery & incorporate vegetation into building design.”

Although Sydney has not experienced a true heatwave this summer, it has been very hot.  Melbourne & Adelaide both experienced two heatwaves this January, baking over a number days.  On 16th January, Adelaide was given the title of ‘the hottest city in the world’ with a temperature of 44.2C, still short of the forecasted 46C.

An article on Care2 discusses the American city of Phoenix trying to cope with 100-degree nights.  “The city averages more than 100 days a year with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees. (37.7C)   In 2013, 115 days hit 100 degrees. In 2011, the city set a new record for days over 110 degrees (42.3C) with 33. That’s over one month of the year with scorching highs. This winter has so far been warmer than average.”

Temperatures are rising everywhere.  The urban heat island effect is increasing those temperatures, & importantly, not allowing the temperature to drop after the sun goes down.  Phoenix has “a shade plan for the built environment & also a plan to “frankly just plant more trees.”  See – http://bit.ly/LuA1xC

We need to start planting now in both private & public spaces if we are to ever hope to be able to cope with projected temperatures.  Sydney’s temperature is expected to be like living in Rockhampton in Subtropical Queensland.  See – http://bit.ly/1aLsaYf

Marrickville Council needs to decide how much to increase the urban forest & set & meet targets to achieve this.  The yearly budget allocation needs to be such to allow this to be achievable.   I have often wondered whether public trees & parks are lower down in the budget & whether these are seen as not as important as grey infrastructure.

Certainly we need to do what we can to keep the trees we have & this means treating them for diseases, fertilizing, mulching & pruning where necessary.

In my opinion, the community needs to help Council keep new trees alive by continuing to water trees once a week when Council has stopped water 12-weeks after planting.  It only takes a few hot days to lose a tree & if we look realistically, the bulk of our street trees are living in very harsh conditions.  Many are either hemmed in by concrete or in visibly dry & compacted soil.

I know there are many who will baulk at the idea of watering a public tree, but it is commonplace in many countries overseas.   The US for example, has a strong community involvement in public trees, whether planting them or looking after them.  Both the US & the UK have community ‘Tree Wardens’ looking after public trees.  These people are not tree experts.  They receive training by their Local Council to do the work they do.

Keeping that tree alive will help reduce your power bills as they help cool the air around your house.  Street trees clean up the air by removing particulate matter from vehicles, so better quality air comes into your home.  They also increase the value of your residence or business amongst many other benefits, so it stands to reason that taking care of the tree outside your property brings significant returns.  Better a living healthy tree, than a dead tree or a sapling that struggles to grow & may take many years to reach a decent size.

Older larger trees are far better at carbon sequestration than smaller trees – another reason why it makes sense to look after them.

You can read the full article here – http://bit.ly/1mQumNW

Tall shady street trees are the norm in Chippendale

Tall shady street trees are the norm in Chippendale

Canterbury Road - this section is mega-hot on a sunny day.

Canterbury Road – this section is mega-hot on a sunny day.

While there are street trees, this is still a hot street in Marrickville

While there are street trees, this is still a hot street in Marrickville

Happy concrete

I have mentioned recently that Portland Oregon in the US has for a while been my number one favourite with all things environmental in an urban environment.  If it can be done & improves the livability of the environment, they do it.  If it extends the life of a street tree, they do it.  If it improves stormwater management, they do it.  They also have what appears to be large community interest & involvement with a thriving community of volunteers across many programs that better the urban environment.  Portland shows the rest of us what can be done.

The latest that I have discovered is depaving.  There is a push coming from the community to remove unnecessary concrete in urban environments for the following reasons –

  • It’s ugly & not seen as conducive to creating livable cities.
  • It’s bad for stormwater management. Hard surfaces increase stormwater, over-burden drains & carry large amounts of ground pollution to rivers, lakes & oceans.
  • Impervious surfaces prevent much of the rainwater seeping into & refilling the groundwater table.
  • Impervious surfaces increase the Heat Island Effect making our environment hotter than it needs to be resulting in increased power usage just to cool our buildings.
  • Concreted surfaces have destroyed habitat & made whole areas unsuitable for urban wildlife.
  • In some cases these kind of surfaces have disconnected people from the natural world. Some people see concrete as ‘clean’ & fallen leaves as ‘dirty.’ This creates a cycle where more & more trees in gardens & along streets are seen as pests & either removed or vandalized.  Once the overall canopy is lessened, the Heat Island Effect grows, power use also grows, but what doesn’t grow is urban wildlife who has fewer places of habitat & food supplies.

Thankfully street trees were planted last year in this vast area of new asphalt in Camperdown. The photo doesn't show it, but the pavement is at least 5 metres across with plenty of room for gardens

Paul Sheehan wrote the following for the Sydney Morning Herald in July 2009 –  “You, reader, live in a primitive city. In a hundred years from now, the society we are building will look back & marvel at how little we really understood about the world we have constructed for ourselves.

We are stewing in our own juices.

Last Wednesday, a night of driving rain, I attended a seminar where more than 100 professionals, a standing room-only crowd, had gathered to learn about practical, cheap, achievable ways of stopping Sydney’s pot from simmering. These were not wide-eyed utopians. In purely parochial terms, the heating of our biggest cities is even bigger than the global warming debate. Because the rise in temperature is mostly & demonstrably caused by outdated thinking.

The story starts on Observatory Hill, at the southern end of the Harbour Bridge, where weather records have been kept daily since 1860. What the observatory has recorded is a rise in the average temperature at the centre of Sydney from 20.5 degrees to 22 degrees. As Sydney grows, Sydney slowly heats.

At last Wednesday’s seminar we learnt why – 27% of the surface of the metropolitan area is covered by bitumen, the black tar which soaks & retains heat & thus changes the city’s climate.

Nearly all the rainwater run-off on this 27% of the city is lost to productive use, flowing into Sydney Harbour because it is designed that way. The city’s rooftops also gather heat. Roads & pavements maximise the waste of arable land. Tree-planting is stunted for legal reasons. Topsoil is “scalped” by roadworks. The increasing use of air-conditioners is creating more energy. More heat begets more heat.”

There is much more to this article, including the work Landscape Architect Micheal Mobbs & his neighbours are doing to green & cool the residential streets of Chippendale – http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/we-are-stewing-in-our-own-oven-20090726-dxew.html

I wrote about Micheal Mobbs & his green verges here – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/verge-gardens-in-chippendale/

Great use of stormwater, but not very efficient

People & local Councils have paved whatever they could since the late 70s.  It was a movement of convenience as concrete is easier to drive on, easier to walk along & easier to clean with a hose.  The main beneficiaries were people with a disability who need flat surfaces to get around & parents with prams.

I believe we need to continue to provide safe & easy access for everyone & there is much need for improvement in this area. Just last month I watched a man in a wheelchair who was forced to travel along the road next to Petersham Town Hall with the cars because there were no wheelchair ramps on the high kerbs at all 4 corners of the cross road.  There must be many such areas like this that make wheelchair travel dangerous & difficult.

Leaving aside wheelchair & pram accessible footpaths & kerbs, many government authorities overseas think that concrete worship has gone too far &, because of the above negative effects, are rethinking their concreting practices of the past.

Most car parks do not need to have concrete or asphalt/bitumen. They can easily be compacted permeable surfaces allowing stormwater to travel into the ground to the water table rather than into 100-plus-year-old drains. Permeable surfaces actually need less maintenance than do impervious bitumen surfaces & therefore are cheaper in the long run.  Appropriate trees can be planted within the parking spaces improving the visual outlook & also helping with stormwater & pollution uptake.

Footpaths do not need to be wall to kerb, except in shopping strips where a greater use of the footpath space is required or where the space between building & kerb is unusually narrow.

This was a very popular landscaping idea in the 1990's. Cement pavers with pebbles or mondo grass in between allowed walking, but let the water drain away.

Marrickville Council is adept in building bio-swales & rain gardens. There is no reason why a small rain garden or two cannot be built within a car park if there is a reasonable flow of water from nearby buildings & from the lie of the land when it rains.

I suspect these ideas will be dismissed in most areas of Australia as ‘too greenie’ because of the convenience of paved surfaces. However, in a few years depaving will be the norm because of the worldwide push to restore groundwater, lessen the Heat Island Effect, restore habitat & make cities more livable.

Although many governments are stalling any real action on climate change, some overseas already depave, create green space & plant more trees in public spaces in cities because they know what is coming. It is like a slow culture change. Once we get used to these changes back to softer infrastructure, we will cope with the bigger changes of gravel lanes & fewer paved surfaces.

If we can create a balance where people who require flat surfaces for mobility can have this, but remove unnecessary hard surfaces & green up, we will have a much cooler, prettier, more environmentally friendly & wildlife habitable environment to live in.  It doesn’t take much to create a huge improvement on many levels.

Here is a 4-minute film where the Portland community removed 278.7 sq metres (3,000 sq feet) of asphalt to create a community space with a perennial food forest.  http://www.streetfilms.org/depaving-day/

Many hundreds of cars use this car park to busy shops in Croydon 7 days a week. Cars are sheltered from the sun under Ornamental Pear trees, there are garden spaces where the trees are, red gravel allows the water to pass into the ground. There are no tyre troughs or dips & it is easy to walk on. Your car is cool when you return from shopping & it is visually pretty making the shopping area look more inviting. (Ignore the imprisoned tree. It's far to late for it now)

 

This is an excellent 5.21-minute YouTube of work by TreePeople, other government agencies & residents who dealt with stormwater flooding on Elmer Avenue in the San Fernando Valley in LA.  Stormwater from a number of streets collected at Elmer Avenue causing flooding & making it dangerous on a number of levels. There were also problems of pollution & drought.

Green verge seen in Botany

To deal with this in an environmentally friendly & sustainable way, all the stakeholders worked together to solve the problem.  The road was dug up & various drains & blue metal installed. This allowed the stormwater to be filtrated & cleaned before entering the groundwater table below.  Before that, the stormwater, ground pollutants & masses of plastic & other litter went straight into the river & the Pacific Ocean. The photos of the plastic pollution are appalling.

Rain gardens that did not look like rain gardens were installed in private front gardens as well as small unobtrusive water tanks. Driveways were made permeable & swales & street trees were planted on what was previously concrete or grass verges.  They even put in solar street lighting because this area had no street lighting.

The result is not only very beautiful & has improved the visual appeal of the neighbourhood, but the area will also be cooler, less polluted & importantly, the stormwater will no longer cause flooding or infrastructure damage. I’d bet that property values were positively impacted as well.   The planning took 5 years, probably because of all the agencies involved, but work to create this took only 1 day because of the community’s involvement.

Instead of patching up 100-year-old pipes & continuing to make roads, footpaths & verges in the same way as has been done for the last 30-40 years, our Councils should be making this type of infrastructure the norm.  It has far more longevity, will lower the Heat Island Effect, is kinder to the environment & creates liveable communities.  It will also result in healthier street trees that will be able to access sufficient water when it rains. Healthier street trees live longer & bring many more benefits than the current expectation of a life-expectancy of 7-15 years, which as I am told is current practice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGLKCWGssj8&feature=player_embedded#!

Also in Botany. The more plants & trees you put along streets, the better the area looks & the more benefits there are for people & wildlife

Tall street trees in Petersham are the norm & residents benefit greatly from this

On 2nd September 2010 a news item in the Toronto Star titled ‘Tree-lined streets not worth the cost, arborists say’ caused a bit of an uproar on the net amongst people interested in trees. The article was discussing the problem of street trees in Toronto. For me it was a good read in that it showed me that problems with the management of street trees are happening elsewhere & that trees in Marrickville LGA generally get a better time of it than those in Toronto.

“You plant trees & people expect them to thrive. They don’t thrive, because they have lost 80-95 percent of their roots,” said Richard Ubbens, director of urban forestry for the city of Toronto. “These trees are in major, major shock.”

Well the first question I had was, “What happened to their roots?” but this was not answered in the article.  I’ve watched a street tree planted here by Marrickville Council staff & all the roots were planted along with the tree. The tree is still growing & didn’t go into shock even though it is in a concreted space, under an awning & the said tree lost a number of its branches.

Street trees in Toronto were described as expensive & barely contributing to the urban canopy goal because of their small size & that they die. They were also described as “really high maintenance.”

Petersham street trees

Here is a very big difference. Street trees in Toronto are cared for & watered for 2 years. Here they are watered once a week for 12 weeks.  I know for a fact Marrickville Council would be overjoyed if residents & business owners helped by watering the street tree outside.

Toronto street trees are planted into traditional holes cut into concrete & as with trees here, get as much water as they are able when it rains which is not much as most rainwater runs away as stormwater. “Above ground, trees simmer in the city heat, suffer in the smog & take in pollution. Underground, the roots compete for space & water in a concrete-laden system that simply whisks water away into the sewers.”

Toronto Tree Managers would prefer to plant trees in the city’s ravines as they mostly survive there. Although they see street trees as a waste of taxpayer’s money, they acknowledge that the streets would be bare without them.

Now they are trying to deal with the problem by establishing maintenance plans over a 10-year period that includes pruning. As well as watering the street trees regularly they feed them with compost tea (so easy to do) & mulch.

They are also trying larger pits with some pits connected so the tree’s roots can travel & also using Silva Cells where appropriate though they are an expensive option.  Silva Cells allow trees to grow deep roots & at the same time stop soil compaction & allow heavy use surfaces to be around the tree.  See -http://www.deeproot.com/products/silva-cell/silva-cell-overview.html

For the Toronto Star article – http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/856171–tree-lined-streets-not-worth-the-cost-arborists-say

Meanwhile scientists, planners & engineers gathered for the National Tree Symposium at Adelaide University.  They were discussing the latest methods to increase the urban tree canopy, including methods to direct stormwater to street trees rather than the age-old loss of this water down drains.

Street tree in Marrickville

Perhaps it’s the weather. Toronto has lashings of snow, while most of Australia bakes & it is getting worse. Last summer there were many heat-related deaths in Adelaide & Melbourne.  There is justified fear that summer heat-related deaths will happen again or develop into the norm because of increased temperatures due to global warming.  Tree & urban planning specialists know we need to increase the canopy as fast as we can & importantly we need to maintain it.

That street trees are only expected to last 5-10-15 years in modern-day tree management is to my mind crazy.  It’s crazy because with a few simple changes, street trees can live for decades.  We have many examples of old trees living happily across Australian cities, including throughout Marrickville LGA.

It costs money to buy trees, to plant them & to chop them down. I’ve said before trees are the only infrastructure Council has that increases in value.  We need to let them grow not only for the beauty they bring, but also because trees drop the need for power use (especially cooling), their shade lengthens the life of footpaths & roads & they have a major psychological effect on human happiness amongst many other things.   I will write about ideas that experts have to help street trees live longer in another post.

Community tree preservation groups Save Our Figs Wauchope & Save Our Figs Group have a big fight on their hands with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council who intend to remove 13 Fig trees in the town centre “to prevent future damage to private property & public infrastructure.” The roots of the Fig trees are presenting a trip hazard & 3 residents have complained of damage to their property they say was caused by the trees.

These 2 massive Figs next to Marrickville Youth Resources Centre enhance the building & the area.

Thing is, the Council have just completed major works on the streets with the trees described as the centerpiece.  Importantly, 3 years ago the community fought to retain these trees & won.

Now the threat of litigation has reared its head & if history is anything to go by, a very small number of people are going to get their way & have the trees removed.  Council can’t take the risk that people will start litigation in the future.

A couple of days ago I posted that Goondiwindi Regional Council chopped down healthy Fig trees despite community opposition.  It’s the same story.  Now that the trees are gone, the Council has made the decision to spend $96,000 on floating footpaths.  They are doing this now because they, “understand how important these trees are to residents.”

Using floating footpaths means the trees can grow normally. There is no need to cut off or shave down roots, nor cover them in bitumen.  Nor will they need to chop the trees down because of a trip hazard or damage to footpaths. Seems like sensible spending to me.  Given that any large healthy tree can be worth around $100,000, spending money to keep them is a good economic decision.

This Fig is literally holding the building up. There is no visible damage to the exterior of the building

The large street trees in the centre of both these towns are what bring beauty & a sense of place. The towns use their street trees as a tourist draw card.  The Fig trees also provide a tangible history & are held dear by most of the community.

Take the trees away & you have substantially changed a place. Not only have you removed things that are worth a great deal of money & with 13 Figs we are talking in excess of a million dollars, but their loss will have an impact on spending in the shops. Researchers have concluded 11% more money is spent in shopping areas where there are big healthy shady trees.  To their credit Port Macquarie-Hastings Council plans to replace the Figs with 11 advanced Brush Box trees.

My question is why don’t Councils or organizations take pre-emptive action on their big trees when the trees are in areas that could damage property or cause trip hazards?  Ultimately it is worth the financial outlay when one considers how much these trees are worth in a monetary sense. Then there are all the other factors to take into consideration, history, place, future, community cohesion (fights like these in small towns could escalate into severe divisions), trust in the Council/organisation & stating the obvious, climate change.

These roots have infiltrated a parking area. I found it interesting is to see that the roots didn't travel far from the tree despite its size. It has been like this for years & the tree is still healthy even though cars park on the roots, proving it is unnecessary to remove a tree when this happens. It might look unsightly, but the tree itself is gorgeous.

Root barriers can be put in place.  Sewerage & water pipes can be replaced with pipes that can’t be invaded by tree roots or re-routed & be done with the problem forever. In Canada, they use a system that allows pipes to be replaced without digging, disturbing or damaging tree roots. They use a water flushing vacuum system to remove the soil from around the roots, pipes or wires, then install the new pipes & put the soil back in.

You don’t even need to put in concrete foundations near a tree when you are building anymore.  Again in Canada, they insert giant steel screw piles into the ground that are just as stable as concrete foundations & require no digging.

There is also a high-density plastic grid system that I have seen used in Sydney.  Once laid over the ground the grid disperses the weight of vehicles over a larger area. The grid also prevents soil compaction, which can damage roots.  Best of all, the grid allows rainwater to permeate the soil, reducing the need for irrigation & improves storm-water management. Ground cover or other plants can be grown in the spaces within the grid.

The grid also prevents soil erosion. I can see these grids used to support riverbanks & to create cement-free car parks. They could also be used to channel water into the ground near a street tree rather than be wasted by pouring down drains.  There is no reason why a section of the gutter cannot be a grid.

There is also porous concrete used across City of Sydney & North Sydney Councils.  Porous concrete provides a seamless surface allowing people to walk across it, but still captures any rainwater that falls on it, watering the tree.

There are quite a number of beautiful Figs in Marrickville LGA & many of them are planted near buildings. Unfortunately many of these trees live in less than perfect conditions with cement & bitumen almost to the base of their trunk. Many have cars & trucks parked right next to them. As we have seen, it is only a matter of time before branches get gouged or broken off by trucks.

Canary Island Palms line Graham Avenue Marrickville. I hope these trees are heritage protected.

The only reason why money isn’t spent on protecting trees before problems start is that trees are not held in high importance or the Council is so strapped for money that understandably, urban forest issues get moved down the list of priorities.

Many Councils do hold their trees in high esteem & look after them. They use floating footpaths & permeable rubber surfaces or permeable ‘solid’ surfaces. They put garden beds around trees to prevent or limit the amount of vehicles that can park under them. They put ‘no parking’ signs for vehicles over a certain size & weight & they do other things like prune dead branches & normal die back. They probably feed them occasionally as well.

I would do all of the above & if property damage occurred with people saying get rid of the tree/s, I would think it is the community’s & Council’s best interest to fix the damage (within reason, once proof & access has been given to Council) & put things in place to ensure the problem won’t repeat itself.  Too many people & future generations miss out for cracks to walls & pipes, both which are easily fixed without costing as high as the value of losing a tree.

Trees are the only things Councils own that increase in value each year.

I have written about clay soils & how they affect buildings at – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/clay-soil/

You can read both stories at the following links -http://www.portnews.com.au/news/local/news/general/lastditch-figs-effort/1874281.aspx

http://www.goondiwindiargus.com.au/news/local/news/general/tree-choppers-are-really-tree-huggers/1872430.aspx

I recently came across a video segment from the program Stateline on ABC from March 2010 where they discussed the dollar value of trees.  This video discusses the following & more:

  • The loss of Adelaide’s street & park trees for lack of water
  • Melbourne has decided to water their street & park trees
  • A real estate agent talking about how both street trees & trees on the property increase the value of the property
  • How much trees are actually worth
  • What it will be like to live in an area that has few or no trees
  • Councils used to irrigate street trees
  • Residents used to give trees both on their property & in front of their property regular watering
  • The cost of watering trees to save their life far outweighs the cost of losing a tree through lack of water
  • How the fact that a tree is not a native somehow gives permission for it to be cut down
  • Trees can be worth as much as $100,000
  • Trees are assets & investments which appreciate over time

roots of a big, beautiful Fig

In Melbourne, they are talking about how their 100-year-old trees are “an extremely valuable asset” while Marrickville Council talks about our older trees as “senescent” & past their time.  You may remember earlier this year Marrickville Council put up a plan before the Councillors to remove many of the old trees over the next 5 years.  The designated amount was 1,000 trees to be removed per year for 5 years targeting senescent trees.  Thankfully the Councillors did not accept this Tree Strategy Issues Paper, but it was a close call & a revised Paper will be returning for consideration soon.

This video is 7 minutes duration.  I whole-heartedly recommend watching it.  If you do, check out the hole in one of the larger trees right at the end.  I have seen a

Pine tree in Brighton le Sands

tree like that closer to home along the beachfront at Brighton-le-Sands.  A few of the tall pines had substantial holes in their trunks. Rather than chopping them down, Rockdale Council had the rot treated & the hole cemented allowing the tree to remain stable & continue to live for the benefit of the community.  I would imagine those trees are heritage listed.

When I was a child, it was quite common for a Tree Surgeon (as Arborists were called then), to be employed to save trees on private property. I remember watching them scrapping out the hole, using chemicals to stop the disease & filling the hole with cement, just like a dentist fills dental caries.  I saw trees bolted together if they had a split in their trunk & other such things that seem to be out of vogue today.  Nowadays, the simplest intervention seems to be to cut the tree down saying “everything has to die.”  True, but many tree species live far longer than what we are led to believe.  Melbourne is proof of this.

As we have been in a long & protracted drought that is not over yet, trees dying from lack of water is going to become a significant issue, especially if the culture changes & trees are truly recognised as significant green assets.  We may yet return to the days where Councils water the public trees & property owners take care of the trees on their property as well as the tree out front.  I have my fingers

lovely Fig in Enmore Park

crossed.  Already around the municipality there are trees dying.  Some of them were stunners that now stand brown & present a danger of falling, damaging property & perhaps a risk to life.  I find it sad as many of these tree deaths could have been averted if they had been watered.

Another article in the same vein that may be of interest says Adelaide City Council is considering putting a dollar value on its trees following in the footsteps of Melbourne.  This may lead to developers being required to compensate for the trees they say they need to chop down by planting trees to that dollar value.  So if trees are valued at $100,000, they will be required to plant trees to that value.  I’m hoping it may bring business to those tree companies who are skilled at large tree relocation.  Relocation costs may actually be cheaper than paying for the trees that would be lost if chopped down.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/04/13/2870993.htm

The Stateline video & a transcript of the main points can be accessed by clicking on the following link- http://www.abc.net.au/news/video/2010/03/26/2857693.htm

This beautiful tree-lined walk along the Cooks River offers respite from the city's hectic life. The tall trees which make this section special.

Marrickville Council is currently building a large swale on Thornley Street, Marrickville South.  It is located at the bottom of the series of parks that descend  the hill at The Warren.  It’s a big swale & I think it is going to be very beautiful. There has done some fabulous landscaping done around here over the last few years.  It’s also going to be great for local wildlife & I bet the frogs move in within days.

Building the swale in Thornley Street

A different type of swale, which is amazingly simple as well as very good-looking is happening in Portland USA.  I continue to be very impressed with this city’s approach to public trees & other green infrastructure.  The picture below has come directly from http://friendsoftrees.org/blog/2010/03/04/next-generation-street-trees-live-in-swales/

brilliant swales in Portland USA

The Cumberland Courier reported on a massive swale built in Cheltenham by Hornsby Council.  It’s well worth a look.   http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/stormwater-treatment-system-takes-root/

Moving away from swales to planter boxes with a difference, I found something truly fabulous happening in Hatertseweg, Netherlands.  The council had built a huge underground planter box that was going to ensure no tree messed with the foundations of a building ever again.  Great stuff.  http://jim-labbe.travellerspoint.com/21/

Last Friday, I was called to Excelsior Parade Marrickville, home of ‘The Pride of Excelsior.’ (see Shame Page) “Energy Australia are pruning the trees.”  I arrived just as they were finishing.  Whether due to recent bad publicity plaguing the energy companies or just a good crew of contractors, they had done a good job.

Energy Australia removed only what was necessary

I always give credit where when it’s due. This is one such occasion.  I have been worried about these trees knowing that Energy Australia were due.  This time there were only a few branches on the road & they had taken care not to over prune.

Interestingly, a small crowd had gathered to assess the work, indicating that others hold these trees in high esteem as well.

The trees are Brush Box, large & old, just the type that Council have recommended to be chopped down & replaced in their Tree Strategies Issues Paper (see last post).  No one knows when these trees were planted, but the housing was built in 1915.  Older residents said the trees went in around that time.  They form a canopy over the street & support a myriad of wildlife.  Everyone who comes to this street mentions the beauty of these trees.  Even the real estate agents mention them in their advertising when a house is up for sale & I am sure the house prices reflect their presence.

A Fire-Wheel tree (Stenocarpus sinuatus, Wheel of Fire, White Beefwood, White Oak for those of you who like botanical names) had to be topped for the cables.  This native species of tree can grow to 40m, but more commonly to 15m in cultivation.  Question is, why was this tree planted under electricity wires around 5 years ago? It will continue to grow & by the time Energy Australia return, the trunk will have grown taller.  Routine pruning will then turn this tree into a flat umbrella & Council will probably chop it down.  In Los Angles, Fire-Wheels are classified as heritage trees & they are described as a ‘fragile tree.’ So, well done Energy Australia.  Thank you for leaving the trees looking beautiful.  I am sure the community will be happy you did.

Integral Energy butchered these street trees in Valentine Ave Blacktown

Not so for the residents of Valentine Avenue Blacktown & Browning Crescent Lalor Park, who complained about the pruning practices of Integral Energy contractors recently.  (see my posts More butchering of street trees & Bakers dozen or it dozen matter).  Curious to see just how bad the damage was & to compare with what has happened in Marrickville LGA, we took a trip there last weekend to see the trees. What a shocker!  They were butchered & the residents were entitled to complain.

Compare the two trees

The visit was worthwhile on a number of fronts.  I now know that Blacktown Council took action to prevent savage over-pruning, whereas in cases of severe over pruning in Marrickville LGA no action seems to have been taken.  Marrickville Council also can intervene in the future, rather than sit back & allow our assets to be destroyed.

Tree-lined M4 which must assist local wildlife

I haven’t been on the M4 for a while.  After leaving the eyesore of Parramatta Road, which seriously needs the intervention of multiple councils, we reached the expressway.  This has become a green corridor as the trees planted for the Olympics have grown & now present a tall, lush, green screen.  It is quite an achievement to make a highway look nice, but they have done it.

I also discovered that Blacktown, Seven Hills & Lalor Park are as green as Eastwood.  There are tall trees everywhere, many of them Eucalypts & it is impossible to count the trees on the horizon. I think Blacktown Council has done well regarding street trees. I found other articles about the recent pruning of street trees & in other locations the Blacktown area.  From the Blacktown Sun – http://www.blacktownsun.com.au/news/local/news/general/pruning-vandalism/1729453.aspx & another from the Blacktown Advocate – http://blacktown-advocate.whereilive.com.au/your-news/story/why-is-energy-australia-mutilating-blacktowns-trees/ & from the Cumberland Courier – http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/your-news/comments/why-is-energy-australia-mutilating-blacktowns-trees/

During my research I was stunned to read that Blacktown City Council gives away 70,000 trees every year free to residents as part of the Visionary Greening Of Blacktown Program.  It’s working.  Then I came across “more than 7,000 native trees have been planted in Fairfield as part of Blacktown City Council Council’s Regenesis Project.” (Aug & Sept 09) http://www.streetcorner.com.au/news/showPost.cfm?bid=11987&mycomm=WC A look at Blacktown Council’s web-site revealed more.  Over 500 residents & businesses people helped plant 23,370 native trees, shrubs & grasses over 8 month period ending June 09. http://www.blacktown.nsw.gov.au/news-and-events/news-releases/wow-23370-trees-planted-since-october.cfm

The Sikh temple & a street in the new housing estate

Even the Sikh Centre, a massive temple, has been given an Environment Grant ($4,200) to rejuvenate the local streetscape, as this is a new housing development with building still under way.

Blacktown City Council has done a Tree Inventory & they also have a Significant Tree Register.  Our Council has  neither & at present have no intention to do so.

I’m going to stop now because I sound like I have set up the Blacktown City Council Fan Club.  http://www.bccfanclub.org.au for your free t-shirt! (NOTE: no such web-site) This research started because I wanted to know why our Council ignores what happens to our street trees & Blacktown Council doesn’t.  Now I can see why.  It’s also good to know what other Council’s are doing about street trees & over-all greening of their municipality so we know what is a reasonable expectation.

Back to the Brush Box trees on Excelsior Parade.  These trees are also at risk of being damaged by passing trucks.  Residents in the area are campaigning on a number of issues & one of their concerns is that long semi-trailers on Excelsior Parade will destroy the trees.  Considering the damage heavy vehicles have caused to trees in the nearby Carrington Road (see post -http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/5th-january-2010-saved-by-the-land-environment-court-maimed-by-trucks/) I think their concerns are justified. To view their concerns go to the Council Gripe web-site at – http://councilgripe.com/content/marrickville-council-police-inaction-re-traffic-safety-warren-road-marrickville

Top right shows the overhead cables cut across the corner-the trees here were scooped out even though they were a fair distance from the cables

I was invited by Marrickville Greens to go to watch the magnificent Lemon Scented Gum street tree in Cambridge Street Stanmore being chopped down by Marrickville Council.  For various reasons I declined, but I know I did not want this image imprinted on my memory.  I have come to love this tree & I am distressed about its loss.  To me, it was no ordinary street tree.

Marrickville LGA has some gorgeous trees, mostly in parks, though there are also good ones that are street trees.  However, we have thousands of butchered, stumpy & not good-looking street trees all over the LGA & it is noticeable if you look.

I think many of us have become desensitised to the ugliness of our street trees because their disintegration happens over time & we just get used to seeing them in this poor condition.  Leave the LGA & you immediately notice the differences.

This magnificent street tree is gone

The Lemon Scented Gum in Cambridge Street Stanmore was one of the better-looking street trees in the whole LGA & this is not an exaggeration.  Do I think this because I like Gums?  Yes & no.  I do like Gum trees, but I also like most other trees.  I am an all-round tree lover though I admit to preferring tall stature trees & especially trees which flower & provide food for insects, birds & animals.

I think it is necessary in an urban environment to think about wildlife when choosing trees to plant.  I also think we have a duty to provide food for these creatures who are losing more & more food resources every year.  If you don’t believe me, put out a birdbath in a safe place in your garden & watch how long it takes for birds to arrive.  They are short of water as well.  When we built a fishpond, the rare frogs of the area arrived within 2 days & there wasn’t other ponds around.  Where did they come from, we wondered.  If you plant flowering trees & shrubs that feed birds, they will come in droves & the air will be filled with birdcalls.

So for a tree of this magnitude to be cut down seems ridiculous to me.  The tree provided refuge for both wildlife & humans because it was a flowering native tree & its canopy significantly cooled the air in the street.  This is not a feeling I am used to when I walk the streets of my local area.  Mostly I cannot walk during the day because the streets are so hot with the heat reflected by the road & concrete.  I believe that as temperatures rise due to global warming, the heat island effect is going to get worse & we are going to bake.  City of Sydney Council recognises this & intends to plant 10,000 more trees in the CBD this year to counteract the heat.

I am aware the residents who wanted the tree removed said it was causing cracking to their house & Council felt hamstrung because of the potential of litigation.  However, because we do not have a Significant Tree Register, our public trees are vulnerable.  Cracking to houses can always be repaired & it is something we should expect when we live in 100 year old houses, which are built on clay soils & with poor quality mortar.  In fact, even renovated houses in the Inner West need regular work as they are always deteriorating.  It comes with the territory. That’s why many people prefer to live in modern units or project homes that are built on cement slabs.  As a norm, tree roots are not strong enough to lift a concrete slab.

Ordinary street in Chatswood with multiple large street trees- a very different outlook to our LGA

When we respect trees & fully appreciate their positive impact on our lives &  vital role in our civilization’s existence, if atmospheric levels of CO2 continue to rise as expected, then we will do everything we can to keep our mature trees that sequester large amounts of CO2.

The removal of this tree affects the whole community, not just the residents of Cambridge Street.  First is it one tree, then another tree & so on.  Before we know it, the whole streetscape is changed & not for the better.  It took 40 years for that tree to grow a 2.5 metre girth & it had at least another 60 years of life left in it.  Eucalypts often live 100 years or more.  All it took was 4 ½ hours for it to be gone.

The Marrickville Greens tried to get a stay of execution to try other methods to repair the cracking & fix the problem at ground level. The Labor & Independent Councillors had to power to grant this so that amelioration could be tried to give the tree a chance to be saved.  I would have conceded defeat if all avenues had been tried & agreed the tree needed be removed, but these avenues weren’t given a chance.   I am sure the Greens feel the same as I do.  This tree was also worth a lot of money to the community & especially to Cambridge Street.  Better to sell a house before a tree is cut down than after.

Our tree assets get voted out because of concrete, their particular species, because they are old, because, because, because.  I have not yet seen tree saving strategies voted in during council meetings, only the opposite.  Trees are seen as a nuisance & a liability.  The reality is: not having trees is a liability.

I will work with Labor & the Independents as well as the Greens if they are pro-trees & the greening of Marrickville LGA.  However, since I have started, I have noticed that support for my vision comes from the Greens & not from Labor or the Independents.  To be fair, Labor did reverse their decision over the Mackey Park Figs, but not until after a community protest of 300 people & an even larger petition.

Once again, regarding the Cambridge Street tree, the Greens voted to keep the tree.  Once again, the vote to remove the tree comes from the other counsellors.  Is it a pattern? Saving Our Trees hasn’t been alive long enough to be able to answer this question.

Frankly I was shocked when I read on the Greens website that:  Independent Councillor Dimitrios Thanos recently emailed Councillors & staff saying: “I’ll grab my chainsaw & meet the staff down there on the appointed day.” I just know he & I are not on the same page when it comes to trees.

Getting back to my intro, I didn’t want to go & watch the ‘Elle McPherson of trees’ be chopped down, but the Marrickville Greens did witness this.  You can read their posts about this tree -http://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/risk-averse-council-condemns-stanmore’s-biggest-eucalypt-to-the-chainsaw/ & you can also view 2 photos taken today by the Greens at – http://yfrog.com/37y6 & http://yfrog.com/1ehcezj &

http://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/stanmores-largest-gum-tree-turned-into-woodchip/

We went to Berowra Waters today, which required driving up the Pacific Highway.  The last time I did this I wrote about the street trees.  This time I wanted to see specifically what the differences were between the Pacific Highway & the sections of Princes Highway & Parramatta Road in Marrickville LGA.

There were a number of noteworthy differences.  The Pacific Highway has thousands of street trees along its length.  A significant number of these trees are Eucalypts.  They cascade over the highway, many having branches which cross over 3 lanes & sometimes as far as the opposite side of the highway.

Bottle Brushes are not the dominant street tree, with most trees being of a taller growing species.  Many of the street trees are 1/3 higher than the power poles & thick trunks are quite common.

Far less than 50% of the trees have trunks that are as thin as an upper arm.  Many street trees were planted around 3 metres apart, which helped create a decent canopy.  Most of the trees have a natural shape & I did not see a single tree in a cage even within the shopping strips

The street trees planted in shopping strips spilled out from under the awnings & loomed over the highway.  Naturally to achieve this they did not have straight trunks & they have not removed because of this.

Autumn colours

Much of the Pacific Highway has a grass verge with a narrow footpath.  Only the shopping strips are paved or cemented.  The grass verge serves to soften the environment, which is quite an achievement considering the Pacific Highway is one of the top 10 heavily trafficked roads in Australia.  I watched the verge of the Highway for its length wondering how they were managing with far less cement.  I noticed the footpaths were narrower than in the Inner West & many trees hung over the path requiring any pedestrians to either duck or weave their way around the tree.  I actually saw this happen & it appeared to cause no difficulty for the pedestrian who was a woman over 50.  So very different from here, where just last week a council worker took to our fence with a whipper-snipper to hack away 20 centimetres of errant camellia which protruded out from under the fence.  Considering the footpath outside our fence is a wide one for the area, I thought this was overkill.

So do we sanitise & control nature more than they do on Sydney’s North Shore?  I think we do.

In direct opposition is our section of the Princes Highway & Parramatta Road, both of which are an eye-sore in my opinion.  The Princes Highway cannot possibly get uglier & being so close to the airport, it is one of the gateways to Sydney. The roads directly surrounding the airport were heavily planted with street trees, shrubs & flowers for the 2000 Olympics.  In the main, they still look good & are maintained by Botany Council.  I doubt once the visitor leaves these roads & comes to the Princes Highway that they will have a favourable impression of the area.  The Princes Highway is in the main a worship of cement.  Soot stained, dirty cement.  One can count the street trees & they are a sad, straggly lot.  There is a gross lack of green infrastructure.  This changes when the Princes Highway comes under the jurisdiction of City of Sydney Council at one end & Rockdale Council at the other.  For a green council, Marrickville seems to be ignoring this stretch of highway.

The same can be said for Parramatta Road, which is stark in its lack of green infrastructure, though it is slightly less ugly than the Princes Highway because of the type of grey infrastructure (some may debate this).  Again, Leichhardt Council & City of Sydney Council have planted threes where Parramatta Road comes under their control, though City of Sydney Council has done far more work & planted many more street trees.  If City of Sydney, Rockdale & Leichhardt Councils can plant street trees along these main roads, why can’t Marrickville Council?

Red-flowering Gum provides food for the birds & possums

Why do we need so much cement?  Trees help the longevity of grey infrastructure like cement footpaths because their shade protects from the harsh sun.  We also know that roofs, roads & footpaths cause the heat island effect & trees lower this.  Temperatures can be 9 degrees cooler in the shade of a tree.

The North Shore is deemed classier.  I think this is not because of the housing stock, but because of the plentiful tall trees & the significant green canopy. Friends have told me they moved to the North Shore because of the trees.  Balmain & Paddington were built as working class suburbs as were those in Marrickville LGA, yet both these suburbs are regarded as better suburbs & their properties are generally worth more.  Why?  Is it the presence of water? Being close to the city?  Perhaps, but Marrickville LGA is also close to the city & has its own beautiful Cooks River.

I think it is because of the trees.  On the drive back from Hornsby, the closer you get to Marrickville the more you notice the trees thin out, get shorter, look less healthy & street tree after street tree have been severely hacked.  The trees on the North Shore aren’t hacked in this way.

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