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Marrickville Council has released its Recreation Needs Research Strategy for public comment. Only 1.27% of the population participated in the community consultation opportunities. The results are now up on ‘Your Say Marrickville’ & the community is being asked to comment by the 6th June 2012.
“Implement a design and place-making pilot program to convert under-used pocket parks into a cohesive network of urban green space.” This sounds great. Some of the pocket parks are underused because they are ugly spaces with broken seats. I know that there are many in the community who would like them fixed up.
“Investigate options for additional sustainability projects – including the redeployment of under-used pocket parks as urban forests or community gardens; the use of permeable pavements in parks and public domain areas and the use of vegetated roofs on park buildings.” I think all of these suggestions are terrific. I have always been a fan of green roofs & was sorry that they were not included in the LEP. I’d also like to see Council negotiate to have empty Railcorp land planted with trees or shrubs to increase the urban forest & add beauty where there is little.
“Need for clear distinctions between public and private space.” I don’t really understand this point & can only think of one potential place where the distinction may not be clear; that is the open space for the potential new library development if it appears to be part of the potential residential development. The new park was to be on the corner of Marrickville & Livingstone Roads opposite St Bridget’s Church & in front of the library building. This makes it clear that the open space is connected to the library & for everyone’s use. I would like this issue to be considered if any new plans place the park in another location that would make it look like it is connected to residential units.
“Inclusion of sensory stimuli (including elements that delight the eye, hearing, taste, smell and touch) in public places.” More attention needs to be paid to landscaping. While woodchip is good for birds to forage for food, it seems to be the main feature in many locations.
“Upgrade landscaping and shade provisions at the water play park in accordance with issues raised in the community consultation.” I would like any shadecloth structure to be a temporary measure only & trees planted around the WaterPlay area to provide natural shade for the future.
“Increased social interaction.” This is a great suggestion. There really needs to be tables near the entrance to Mackey Park & not in the playground for the older people to be able to get together as they used to. They used to meet here most days. Now they stay at home because there is nowhere to sit & as they told me, they don’t want to sit in the playground. I wrote about this issue in January 2011. See - http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/mackey-park/
“Need to orientate buildings to streets, plazas and parks to create ‘eyes on the street.’” “the widespread adoption, over the past ten years, of crime prevention through environmental design strategies to minimise crime in public places by enhancing the perceived risk of detection and apprehension.” I think sightlines are over emphasised in our parks. It is very hard to get away from the sounds, smell & visibility of the traffic. You can see from one side of the park to the other even in our largest parks. Drive along Victoria Road Marrickville & you can look through Enmore Park right across to Black Street.
Noise is also a big issue. In Tempe Reserve you get unbuffered noise from the airport, the airport highway & from the Princes Highway. It is unprotected from the wind as well. Sydenham Green is worse as the heavy traffic is closer.
I think the emphasis on crime & injecting drug users is overdone to the detriment of the community. Fear of crime should not be used as an excuse to avoid planting a decent quantity of trees and shrubs in parks. If fear of crime is over-emphasised in park design, the community & wildlife end up losing a great deal of beauty & amenity.
I give two very popular parks in two other municipalities as examples where the Councils have created a private green oasis without emphasising sightlines.
Rockdale Park in Rockdale – This is an incredibly beautiful park. So beautiful in fact that Rockdale Council’s website says that it, “is the City’s most popular venue for outdoor wedding ceremonies and/or wedding photography.” Understandable. It was the first place I thought of when discussing a friend’s upcoming wedding of their daughter.
So what makes it beautiful? It has hundreds of trees of many different species. The majority have been allowed to grow naturally so they have side branches often just above the ground. There are seriously good landscaped gardens & lots of flowers. Large garden beds full of flowers are mass-planted twice a year – Petunias & Pansies. There is at least one pond & a man-made stream that curves around the park that I presume can be filled on request. A red Chinese-style bridge crosses the stream while a wooden pagoda stands nearby in front of a lawn area. There is lots of attractive seating placed in areas of dappled shade, full shade & sun. Importantly, the busy road can’t be seen from most places inside the park & the traffic noise & smell is buffered by the trees & landscaping. This is a park where you can get away from the madding crowd, yet it still feels safe because there are always people using it.
Beauchamp Park in Chatswood – It is lined on one side by Canary Island palm trees & filled with very tall trees throughout the park. Beauchamp Park makes me wonder why none of our parks have trees of this density or of this height. This is a park where you can sit with your back against a tree without having to sit in woodchip. There is tons of seating, some with tables scattered all around the park. There is also public art, a playground, memorial trees & garden beds of flowers & other flowering plants & no grasses, except for lawn. While you can see through the park, there is a strong feeling of privacy. This is an extremely popular park because it is so people-friendly & beautiful. It is also filled with birdsong. You can watch a short video here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QclJsLEw-zQ
This & the last 2 posts on the Marrickville Recreation Needs Research Strategy are what I paid attention to in the report & I will be contributing on Council’s Have Your Say webpage. While this is just a study with recommendations, without public feedback Marrickville Council can be forgiven for thinking that the community approves of the suggestions included & decide to put them up for decision at a Council Meeting. If the Councillors vote to approve some of these recommendations then there will be great changes in our environment, some good, some excellent & some I consider disastrous.
Today I came across a wonderful article from the website The Conversation – “an independent source of information, analysis & commentary from the university & research sector.” The article was written by Jason Byrne – Senior Lecturer/First Year Advisor at Griffith University & published 9th January 2012.
“Jason Byrne is an urban geographer by training. He undertook his PhD at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles) where he was a fellow in the Center for Sustainable Cities. Jason is also a Senior Fellow with the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies. He has previously worked as a town planner & environmental policy officer with the Western Australian government. Jason’s research interests include: urban nature parks & green-space planning; equity & fairness in planning (environmental ethics & justice); open space & healthy cities; ecological modernisation & sustainability; & climate change adaptation & urban resilience.
Because the The Conversation allows this article to be republished I thought it best if I did just that, rather than write a description with the web-link.
This article is very relevant to Marrickville LGA. It’s great for me to be able to share what an expert thinks about the value of green space, especially in high-density urban areas & increasing urban consolidation. The use of bold is my emphasis.
“What is green space worth?
Recent patterns of residential development in Australian cities are threatening to overwhelm green space in our urban cores. Policies of urban consolidation have concentrated medium to high density residential development in inner ring suburbs where green space is comparatively scarce. And the zoning & development regulations of many local authorities actually allow a reduction of green space for higher density development – usually without any justification. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07293682.2010.508204
Everyone likes parks, but we may be greatly undervaluing their importance to our health & wellbeing, & to the wellbeing of other species. Rather than losing our green spaces, we should be assessing the evidence on their value & making informed decisions about how much green space we need.
To the casual observer, urban parks & green spaces might appear commonplace. But even a cursory examination of green space distribution within most cities shows that urban green space is neither uniformly accessible nor equitably distributed.
Generally the older & denser parts of many cities, which often were developed during the industrial revolution, tend to have relatively poor park access. But suburbs that have developed since the late 1950s have comparatively better access to various types of green space.
The spatial pattern of urban green space distribution reflects diverse factors linked to urban land & property markets, changing land use planning philosophies, histories of settlement & development, & in some cases, institutionalised racism and elitism. http://phg.sagepub.com/content/33/6/743.short
Before the development of formalised park & recreation planning systems in the late 1800s & early 1900s, park & green space planning in the United Kingdom, United States, & Australia was relatively haphazard.
Some cities, like Adelaide, are park rich due to visionary administrators. In London royal parks were opened to the public, a product of elite benevolence. Other cities, like Canberra, grew while new ideas about park planning gained popularity.
But some cities are park poor. Inner ring residents in Los Angeles for example, have less public park space per 1,000 residents than the size of a suburban backyard. http://www.springerlink.com/content/g1277273381828l7/
So can we put a value on urban green space?
Research by John Henneberry, a Professor of Town & Regional Planning at the University of Sheffield, suggests people in Sheffield may be willing to pay sizeable sums to access high quality urban green space. http://www.shef.ac.uk/mediacentre/2011/public-willing-to-pay-more-for-greener-urban-spaces.html
This should not come as a surprise. From their early origins in the UK & US, parks were known to raise property values & people were prepared to pay a premium to live near them. Frederick Law Olmsted & Harland Bartholomew openly acknowledged this when they developed Central Park in New York.
Studies by John Crompton & others have found widespread evidence supporting the notion that proximity to green & open space pushes up property values. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13606710500348060 But reducing the benefit of parks & green space to a line on a ledger sheet can be both misleading & inaccurate.
Beyond an economic calculation, researchers have discovered that urban green spaces provide a wide variety of benefits. You don’t have to use these spaces to benefit from them. Parks can improve physical & mental health, ecosystem services & urban biodiversity.
Public health researchers like Ariane Bedimo-Rung http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379704003046 & Billie Giles-Corti http://jech.bmj.com/content/62/5/e9.abstract have found that living close to urban green spaces like parks & trails can increase urban residents’ levels of physical activity & reduce the likelihood of being overweight or obese. This reduces the risk of diabetes & several types of cancer.
Frances Kuo http://eab.sagepub.com/content/30/1/3.short & her colleagues have found that proximity to urban green space can lower the incidence of domestic violence, stress & depression & may even mitigate attention deficit disorder in children.
Ecological economists including Bolund & Sven Hunhammar http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800999000130 have found urban green spaces also provide a range of free ecosystem services. They reduce noise levels, lower pollution, & reduce flooding. And some ecologists have also found that urban parks can harbour rare & endangered species & promote biodiversity. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1618866706000732
We need strong evidence to support the density imperative, evidence that we presently lack. Until we can accurately gauge the green space needs of higher density residents, it may be folly to blindly pursue policies of urban consolidation.
In a time of economic uncertainty, when local councils are looking to develop “surplus” land assets such as “underutilised” park spaces, we need to carefully evaluate the true values of these spaces, before they are sold off to bolster ailing municipal coffers. To do otherwise could be more costly than we might imagine.” http://theconversation.edu.au/content/4703/tracker
The link to this article is here – http://theconversation.edu.au/what-is-green-space-worth-4703