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I had been told about new verge gardens being created by Marrickville Council on Unwins Bridge Road, but had no idea where on this lengthy road they were or how much depaving was being done.
Marrickville Council has created 32 new verge gardens from almost the corner of Campbell Street all the way to Mary Street. Right now it looks like a building site, which it is. When the work is completed though, this stretch on Unwins Bridge Road will look significantly better than it did before.
The community & wildlife will be much better off for any depaving & the creation of gardens. Verge gardens & street trees will help with the pollution in this area as the trees & plants will collect particulate matter from passing vehicles. They also help lower the urban heat island effect & add beauty, which adds to property values. Also, a good-looking streetscape makes for a nicer place to live.
Imagine how the municipality would look if all the excess concrete was removed & replaced with green plants, more street trees & colour from flowers? 32 new verge gardens in this location is significant. I thank Marrickville Council for doing this & can’t wait to discover their future depaving projects making our municipality a nicer, more attractive, sustainable & healthy place to live.
Barcelona in Spain has delivered an amazing 8-storey green wall outside an already standing building, proving that green walls do not need to be the domain of new developments.
As the world heats up, this kind of initiative will need to become more commonplace. We cannot continue to create urban environments that are essentially a mix of hard surfaces on different levels – from streets to walls & roofs on high-rise buildings. We will bake unless we make changes to the way we build.
A green wall is not only a living entity; it is also a working entity cleaning up air pollution. Green walls have many benefits. They cool down the building & the local area. They add beauty to the streetscape & have a positive impact on the health & happiness of people who live or work in the building & also those who pass by. They also add to biodiversity. Green walls make sense, especially as the population increases & land becomes scarcer.
What is terrific about this particular green wall in Barcelona is that what was once a large 8-storey blank wall has now been transformed into a living green wall. A scaffold-like structure was built in the air space outside the building. Therefore the plants & the water that is used to keep the plants alive will not impact on the structure of the building, something that concerns many. A staircase & floors have been created between the wall & the building to allow maintenance. The planted boxes are modular & can be removed & replaced. So can plants, making it easy to remove any that may have died.
The designing Architect Juli Capella says they have identified seven species of birds that use this particular green wall as well as flying foxes & geckos. These are shown as an interpretive sign near the green wall to educate the public. The green wall has turned into an attraction with a monocular installed so people can zoom in to have a close look at the plants. Initially the locals were worried about the birds & insects & the ‘evils of nature,’ but now are happy with the wall.
This could be done here in Marrickville municipality if the owners of buildings were willing & if Marrickville Council encouraged it. Green walls like this one would certainly significantly add to the value of their properties as well as provide the community major inspirational beauty to the streetscape & make it a healthier place to live.
If I had my way, all new developments would include green walls in some way because they are so beneficial. In time it will happen, as I believe Architects will not want to be viewed as out of date & out of touch with the community’s desires when other Architects design more people & environmentally friendly office & residential buildings. Until then we can look at what is happening overseas as well as in the City of Sydney Council area, as they are embracing green walls with a passion to make Sydney a very livable city.
You can watch a short video of the green wall in Barcelona here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oC_ghwmBV4
I had been hearing reports that devastation had happened in front of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Lewisham so we went to have a look for ourselves. The visual impact to the area is phenomenal. What once was a beautiful stretch of trees along both sides of busy West Street is now a wide gaping hole that looks like a scar.
The lovely historical buildings of St Vincent de Paul Society that front West Street are for the most part brick & sandstone. In recent years, St Vincent de Paul Society erected a grey glass & steel edifice that is not sympathetic to the surrounding buildings. Things like this are personal taste & I am sure they are happy with the result. The 31 trees that once fronted this site softened this new building & matched the older buildings. Together with the trees on the periphery of Petersham Park they created a green corridor along West Street as you came off Parramatta Road.
It is not just the local people who treasure the St Vincent de Paul Society site. I remember when I first saw it in the early 80s when it was still Lewisham Hospital. My reaction was one of stunned, “Wow! This place is gorgeous!” The many magnificent trees that made up front garden combined with the obviously historical buildings made a strong impression on me.
Buildings can be beautiful on their own, but most of the time it is the trees that create an atmosphere of wellbeing. As an example I give the ‘Prayer Garden’ within the St Vincent de Paul Society grounds. I don’t know what this area is called, but it is certainly meant for prayer & contemplation because of the life-size-statue of Jesus, the trees, the landscaping & even the graves tucked into a corner. If you removed all the trees from this area, it would no longer be a place of contemplation & peace. It would simply be open space between buildings. This is precisely what has happened at the front of the St Vincent de Paul Society site on West Street.
31 large & mature trees, many with massive trunks, have been removed. This has exposed the buildings, which now look slightly foreboding, especially the newest grey/glass building. I acknowledge that this is a matter of personal perception & this is mine.
In place of the trees is a black bitumen driveway & parking spaces. This choice of surface will increase the heat island effect making the area & the buildings hotter in summer. At the far right there were a grove of Melaleucas & some very big & beautiful Eucalypts that framed the stone arch entrance. They too have gone. The car park does not come to this area so removing these trees appears to have been done simply to facilitate the rebuilding of the fence. If St Vincent de Paul Society had wanted to, engineers could have easily replaced the fence & kept the trees.
Instead, the place has been cleared. Nice little Banksias & Crepe Myrtles have now been planted at wide intervals with other low landscaping plants in a garden bed along the completed section of the new fence.
In my opinion, Marrickville Council let the community down when they passed this DA. Even though the trees were on private property, the type of property it is means that it has had a long & active history with the community. The trees were part of the fabric of this Lewisham street & were part of what made Lewisham special. Most people know of this complex, even if they do not know of its new name & purpose. What they remember is the beautiful old buildings & the trees. Question is, are trees valuable enough to be classified part of a community’s history? I think so, but I am not so naïve to not think that others would disagree with me.
The St Vincent de Paul Society complex is on a main thoroughfare, one block from Parramatta Road. The tall trees with their wide trunks & significant canopy captured & stored much CO2 & particulate matter from passing traffic, preventing this from going into the complex itself, but also further afield into the local community.
Then there are the Long-nosed Bandicoots, those small little animals that are classified as ‘endangered species’ & that call this particular patch home. The presence of Bandicoots is another reason why Marrickville Council should not have passed this DA. Endangered Species rely on our Councils to preserve & manage their habitat.
The Department of Climate Change, Environment & Water were aghast when I spoke to them last year about the removal of the Long-nosed Bandicoots’ habitat. I last heard that WIRES was negotiating with St Vincent de Paul Society to retain some habitat so the Bandicoots could continue to survive. I will contact WIRES to ask what happened.
Marrickville Council now needs to plant street trees on the footpath outside the St Vincent de Paul Society complex. What is left is a 100 metre long desolate space that is hot, very
windy & not good to look at. It is also noisy as the traffic sounds now bounce back from the buildings. whereas before it was much quieter because the trees muffled the traffic noise. There are no overhead cables & the footpath is 3 metres wide so tall-growing large canopy trees can be planted. It would be good if sections of cement could be removed to make long patches of garden greenspace.
It’s difficult to comment about tree removal on private property, though in this case the trees were an integral part of the streetscape & provided habitat for an Australian native animal that has been classified as an endangered species.
There were many in the community who sincerely thought that St Vincent de Paul Society would keep the trees on the far right of the front of the complex for the Bandicoots, especially as they knew the community were very concerned about the loss of their habitat.
I know of a few people who are devastated by the loss of these trees & by how desolate the streetscape of their neighbourhood now looks. A great chunk of our urban forest has gone & there may be more as I understand St Vincent de Paul Society intend to remove other large Eucalypts throughout the complex.
I have put up a 1.27-minute YouTube of the front of the St Vincent de Paul Society & the streetscape here if you are interested – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJeDogZyHyM
I last wrote about this DA here – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/lewisham-is-about-to-lose-32-mature-healthy-trees/
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.
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/
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.
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/
I have been a fan of rubber footpaths since I first heard of them. The benefits of installing them are huge & I wish they were used as the norm. To keep it simple, I have point-formed a rundown of the main points & benefits of rubber footpaths -
- Rubber footpaths are made from recycled tyres making them environmentally sustainable as the reuse of tyres stops millions going into landfill or being burnt & polluting the atmosphere. Some products also include low-density polyethylene plastic, again diverting from landfill.
- The downside is that rubber footpaths are more expensive than laying concrete. However, they are modular in design allowing them to be lifted in segments & repaired or the segment replaced if they become overly damaged.
- Rubber footpaths are expected to last 15-plus years, whereas concrete is graded at 5-years. Unlike concrete, they will not crack & ruin because of tree roots. In the US 80% of the damage to sidewalks is caused by tree roots. I couldn’t find statistics for Australia, but it’s likely to be similar, though I think the US has overall many more street trees than we do which may raise the percentage of damage.
- Rubber footpaths are flexible & interlocking so they will undulate over any tree roots on the surface. They have a channel design underneath that facilitates root growth & assists with water drainage.
- They are permeable allowing both air & water to travel through them. This helps immensely with the health & longevity of the street tree & apparently, the street tree will grow less surface roots because they no longer need to.
- Rubber footpaths retain moisture under the ground, which is also good for street trees.
- Because rubber footpaths are permeable they significantly reduce stormwater runoff by allowing 100% of the water to enter the ground where it falls resulting in less ground water pollution entering rivers & oceans.
- Permeability means that puddles don’t form, lessening the chance of accidents.
- Any falls by people are likely to be less severe as the rubber is much softer than concrete. They don’t create trip hazards like concrete footpaths do.
- Apparently, rubber footpaths are good to walk on & less likely to cause back, heel & joint problems because they are softer than concrete.
- They are said to last well with all weather conditions & are not damaged by high heels or bikes, skates & the like.
- Rubber footpaths come in both light & dark colours & are solar reflective. They don’t lose their colour & many years later look as good as when they were laid. That is unless they are covered in discarded chewing gum.
- They lower the Heat Island Effect by reflecting heat & by cooling down 25% faster than concrete.
- Although rubber footpaths are not recommended for anything other than occasional vehicular traffic, they can tolerate 18,143.695 metric tons without breaking, cracking or deforming. This means they will be able to survive traffic over footpaths with vehicles entering & exiting homes.
- Rubber footpaths can be used over internal concrete flooring & as coverage on flat roofs or for courtyards, garages & garden paths.
I doubt this kind of footpath will be used for a while in Marrickville LGA because concrete is cheap & easy. However, I do believe that, as the climate gets hotter, this kind of change will become the norm across Australia.
For further reading – www.rubbersidewalks.com/
There is a push happening in the US as high as President Obama to paint all roofs across the country white. The benefits of white roofs are frankly astounding & it won’t take long before the white roof movement hits Australia in a big way.
I suspect there will be resistance to change due to familiarity of red roofs. Also, some people will be concerned about the Feng Shui of white roofs as they represent death or mourning. Red roofs, the colour of most of Australian tiles, means money coming in. Black or dark grey tiles are seen as a cloud of depression & doom hanging over your home & to be avoided. Blue roofs are the worst as they represent water overhead causing the residents to always be drowning in problems.
According to the US Department of Energy white roofs keep buildings cooler in summer & slightly warmer in winter & can save 10-15% of energy used for air conditioning.
White roofs & light coloured pavements change the solar reflectance (albedo) because the sunlight comes down & is reflected back into space, thereby not adding to the greenhouse gases.
White roofs do not add to the Heat Island Effect, something that is going to become a real issue in the years ahead if not enough is done to reduce it. We will all be boiled alive whilst going about our business, literally. Death due to heat will become more commonplace. Manhattan has been found to be 5 degrees (22 F) hotter than surrounding suburbs simply due to the Heat Island Effect.
To combat the Heat Island Effect there needs to be a combined approach of planting more shade-producing broad-leaf street trees & more ground vegetation. Asphalt should be removed where possible, especially great expanses like car parks. Of equal importance is installing green roofs & walls or using solar reflective white coatings on both walls & roofs.
Research by the US Department of Energy found if all the roofs on Earth were replaced with white roofs & light-coloured cement pavements were used in all cases, the sunlight reflected back into space would be the equivalent of removing all vehicles off the roads worldwide for 11 years. This is significant, hence the push in the US to make all roofs white. If all the walls were white or light coloured, the positive impact would be even greater. If all cars were light-coloured, the car would need less air conditioning to keep it cool. Soon you won’t be able to by a dark-coloured car.
The monetary cost of white roofs & light-coloured pavements is equivalent to the cost of materials we use now. White roofs can be used in combination with solar panels.
Already available on the market are nanotechnology heat reflective paints that can be painted over roof tiles or sheeting. These reflect between 90-95% of UV, infrared & visual light & prevent heat transfer into the roof space. Tests have shown that roof space under a dark roof can be up to 50 degrees higher than outside air temperature.
There has been some resistance to white roofs for fear they will get dirty & look bad within a couple of years. They will, though some products have Titanium Dioxide in them that is said to make the roof self-cleaning. How fast the roof becomes dirty & loses its reflective ability depends on the location of the building & the slope of the roof. The dirt that dulls the white roof is airborne dust & particulate matter from traffic pollution. It’s the stuff we breathe in daily & what street trees help prevent coming into our homes. The roof can be power cleaned once or twice a year to return the colour back to sparkling white.
I suspect the need to wash one’s roof regularly will be another source of resistance to white roofs. My bet is that eventually governments will offer significant tax rebates for those who have white roofs. Plus power costs will be at nightmare levels so people will be forced to do whatever is available to help keep costs down. I’ve just heard on ABC News tonight a warning that electricity costs will be 100% higher by 2015 & 500% higher by 2020. We will be forced to change & accept sustainable & green cooling & heating methods.
That’s when trees are going to undergo a revolution in image & people will return to being tolerant about fallen leaves, wildlife & fixable cracks to paths & fences. People are going to want tall shade-producing trees near their home & on the street because of the tree’s ability to lower power bills by cooling the air. As the Heat Island Effect increases, so does air pollution, especially pollution near the ground & the trees’ natural ability to clean the air will be recognized as a significant benefit.
New York City found that the ability to cool an area cheaply & effectively was by planting street trees so they started the 1 Million Trees program. The next best for cooling an area is by creating green roofs, using light covered roof & wall surfaces & planting in open spaces.
The Manhattan Young Democrats have set up the White Roof Project to curb the effects of climate change, to make the city cooler & to lower New York City’s energy use & their program is very successful. Volunteers paint city roofs with reflective white paint purchased from donations. You can even have a white roof named in your honour for the paltry sum of US$1,000. I applaud them for their idea, their commitment & their hard work. For a great visual explanation of the Heat Island Effect & how painting roofs white can curb climate change see - http://www.whiteroofproject.com/how-we-can-curb-climate-change/
Australia should be seriously looking at white roofs & white walls. The only exception should be a green roof or green walls with living plants.
On 16th November 2010 Marrickville Council took its Draft Urban Forest Policy & Strategy to the Council Meeting where it was endorsed.
The Urban Forest Policy replaces the Tree Policy, Protection of Trees & Tree Management Policy & is integrated with tree protection measures included in the Draft Development Control Plan 2010. The Draft Marrickville Urban Forest Strategy is a separate document that will be reviewed every 5 years & new priorities set.
In brief Marrickville Council intends the following -
- Do a tree inventory & establish a Public Tree Asset Inventory. The data
collected will allow Council to know what their tree asset actually is & the actual location of trees. This information should help Council to: identify areas that have fewer trees & where to focus on planting, assess the health & condition of each public tree, identify when a tree can benefit from maintenance to increase its health & lifespan, keep track of tree loss from death, vandalism or removal by residents or Council, help manage trees more effectively throughout their lifespan, plan for replacement trees in a strategic way rather than piecemeal, increase the community’s awareness about the urban canopy & increase awareness & understanding of trees’ economic, social & environmental value.
- Take an aerial photograph to see what the actual percentage of canopy is within Marrickville LGA. This will include trees on private land. Hopefully Council will do this every few years so they can see if their urban tree strategy is working & if the canopy is increasing. It will allow them to target areas that need work.
- Increase the urban forest including promoting the planting of more trees on private land.
- Set up a Street Tree Master Plan. This will allow creation of better looking streetscapes as well as planting larger growing trees where appropriate. A Street Tree Master Plan looks at planting the right tree for the right location.
- Take a ‘whole of life’ management approach to managing trees.
- Establish a Significant Tree Register. Having such a Register will set up a
culture & philosophy of protecting our natural heritage & will go a long way to protecting significant trees. City of Sydney Council for example has 1931 trees on their Significant Tree Register. They say, “The aim of the Register is to identify & recognise the importance of significant trees in the City’s changing urban landscape. The Register will help to guide the management of these trees & to ensure their continued protection for the benefit of the community & for future generations. These trees are integral parts of the City’s historic, cultural, social, aesthetic & botanical heritage. Many of these trees have a story to tell & may have strong associations with past events & people.”
- Involve the community in decision-making & care of the urban forest.
- Identify opportunities for increasing the urban forest on State Government & “Not for Profit” organisation lands. This means that all the wastelands around the LGA could be planted out with trees instead of becoming garbage dumps or areas of long grass & weeds. It will also help do our bit for global warming.
- Development Applications will be required to include information that will allow Council to assess potential impact on trees.
- A bond will be set to protect public trees that may be potentially affected by development. One only has to look at the deterioration of the bulk of the Hills Figs in Renwick Street & Carrington Road Marrickville South to see how important this will be.
- Council will view trees as ‘infrastructure assets.’
- Establish guidelines & procedures to manage insurance claims regarding public trees.
- Increase the diversity of trees planted. Hopefully the use of ornamental Pears & Prunus varieties will decrease & other species of trees will be used in place of these. My personal opinion is these trees have almost negligible benefit for urban wildlife & there are other species that will create the same effect yet be beneficial.
- Will look for new places to plant trees.
- Will not prune or remove trees due to leaf, fruit drop or sap drop, bird or bat droppings or because a branch overhangs private property.
Last February Council recommended to the Councillors the removal of 1,000 trees per year for the next 5 years. Their paper specifically targetted ‘senescent’ trees, meaning older trees. This is of serious concern because it is older trees that provide the most benefits both to the community & the environment.
To lose these simply because they have been assessed as coming towards or reaching their SULE (safe, useful life expectancy) may be a matter for debate. That Council has clearly stated that they “will involve the community as a key partner in managing the urban forest of Marrickville LGA” gives me great hope that they will actually do this. But I have not found in the new Draft Policy a target number. Perhaps some of these trees that would have been targeted for removal 10 months ago will now be protected.
I was very happy with the changes & the new direction Marrickville Council intends to go with the Draft Urban Forest Policy and Strategy. The new policy/strategy appears to me to be quite different than what they presented in February 2010.
Much of what it proposers is already happening in many other Councils across Sydney. The new direction can only improve the management of trees & communication with the community. Increasing the tree canopy will benefit everyone & should have a positive impact on urban wildlife.
Unfortunately, it’s an aspirational document as many of the plans will remain just plans because Council doesn’t have the money to instigate much of what is in the Draft Urban Forest Policy & Strategy. There isn’t long before the effects of global warming become obvious especially with the heat island effect. All the experts believe that trying to grow trees in these conditions will likely be much harder than today. We need these trees now as they take many years to grow.
The Draft Urban Forest Policy & Strategy is a large document so I will go through it & post on any sections that I find interesting or relevant. You can read what happened in the Council Meeting about the Draft Urban Forest Policy & Strategy here – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/report-from-the-gallery-–-16th-november-2010-–-part-2/
I haven’t been able to find the Draft Urban Forest Policy & Strategy on the Community Consultations page of Marrickville Council’s website. As soon as it is made available, I will post the link. You can look for it yourself by going to -
http://www.marrickville.nsw.gov.au/ & scrolling down to Community Consultations in the left hand column if it is not on their main page.
The deadline for community consultation is 2nd February 2010.
14th December 2010 - Both the Policy & the Strategy are now on Marrickville Council’s website. You can download them here - http://www.marrickville.nsw.gov.au/get_involved/community_consultations/urbanforest.html?s=2018938229 The deadline for submissions is Monday 28th February 2011.
Last August 2010 I wrote about Michael Mobbs, an Environment Architect well known for his sustainable house at Chippendale. He encouraged his neighbours to transform the verges outside their houses into sustainable gardens in at least 4 Chippendale streets. This is quite an achievement & has been very successful.
The bustling verges are immediately noticeable when you drive off Cleveland Street into the streets that are part of this project. The verges make these inner city streets look peaceful & it’s far nicer than looking at concrete or strips of lawn.
City of Sydney Council has come on board by openly supporting the project, supplying funds & signage, removing concrete & allowing some of Peace Park to be used. They may have even supplied the compost bins located on street corners & in the small park. Fruit trees have been espaliered along one side of Peace Park creating an eatable fence. It looks great & allows 4 fruit trees to grow without taking valuable space from the park.
There are vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, bay trees, wild raspberry, daisies, Grevilleas, succulents, native grasses & many other plants. There may even be potatoes growing under a couple of car tyres. Some of the plants are labeled with home-made signs making the walk just a little more interesting for people like me who can’t identify every plant they see.
I spoke to a couple of people who noticed I was taking photos & they were very proud of what has been achieved. Most of the small front gardens were also well looked after & many cuttings have migrated to the verge. The sheer variety of plants makes it look interesting. The street trees that were once encased in concrete are now sitting in the middle of well-watered composted gardens & would be wondering at their luck.
According to the signs, you can, “Pick any fruit, berry or leaf that you want to eat. These plants provided by local residents for anyone. We need to grow food where we live & work.” How lovely to see such generosity. Anyone who has grown vegetables & fruit will know that unless you bottle everything, there is generally more than you can eat when a crop ripens so sharing makes sense.
Using the verges to grow vegetables, fruit & other plants has many benefits.
- Removing concrete allows stormwater to go into the ground & this serves to keep your foundations more stable & stop movement & cracking walls. It also stops pollution entering stormwater drains.
- The immediate environment gets greener & this has proven to make people feel happier.
- Producing food cuts down grocery bills & gives people a huge sense of satisfaction.
- It also teaches children that vegetables don’t come out of clear plastic bags & that they need to take care of the earth & the environment. Most kids like gardening if they don’t have to work too hard or for too long.
- Add the concept of sharing to everyone like this community has done would have an accumulative benefit that spreads outwards into the greater society.
- Projects like this one bring people out of their homes & allow them to get to know each other in a non-threatening way. A close community is a safer community.
- As the soil gets richer & the plants start to grow & produce people would feel as though they are a part of something that improves the environment & helps each other.
- Verge gardening encourages innovative thinking in that there isn’t much land to use so people have to think of ways to maximize the space.
- It also beautifies & cools the area & creates community pride.
A few months ago, the then Mayor Sam Iskandar wrote in the Inner West Courier that he hoped many people would start verge gardens in Marrickville LGA. He said Council would help them by removing concrete in suitable places if they applied. We have a new Mayor now, but I’m confident that Fiona Byrne who is a member of Marrickville Greens also encourages verge gardens.
The September 2010 Eco Edition of Marrickville Matters said Council was starting up Groundwork, a grassroots sustainability project where people will be taught various gardening techniques & “designing, installing & maintaining gardens – especially non-traditional ones like on verges & roofs.” This would certainly be something good to be involved with.
If you look there are many, many verges around Marrickville LGA where verge gardens would be suitable. From experience, you only need to start doing it to garner the interest of your neighbours & it is nice to have that bit of extra land to play with. If we all did it, Marrickville Council could save up to $2 million a year in verge mowing costs. That money could be used for other things such as street tree planting, which is another way we can benefit.
I last wrote about Michael here – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/verge-gardens/