Verge gardens are becoming really popular in many places around the world because they not only have the potential to add significant beauty to the streetscape, but they help lower the urban heat island effect.
Climate change is causing local councils & planners to have a concerted look on how to adapt to the changes climate change will bring & how to keep cities livable. Heat events are of serious concern because they can result in hundreds of deaths.
Cities (this includes the suburbs in a city) can be hot places because of the volume of hard surfaces that literally absorb heat from sunlight & trap it within the hard surfaces keeping it there overnight.
Thankfully Marrickville Council is promoting verge gardens. They actively encourage the community to take charge of their own, as well as creating new verge gardens everywhere where they need to replace the concrete footpath. This is excellent & already the changes in some streetscapes around the municipality are showing the positive impact on Council’s initiative.
City of Sydney Council has embraced verge gardens with fervour. An increasing number of street corners have been reclaimed from the road & given over to verge gardens. Reclaiming the road slows traffic, assists pedestrians & allows the beautification of the streetscape. Depaving hard surfaces is a major part of lowering the heat island effect across the municipality.
So I was surprised & disappointed when I read of the destruction of a verge garden by the Town of Cambridge Council in Western Australia. The verge garden is large at 250-square-metres & is in the suburb of Wembley, about 5kms from Perth CBD.
The couple had created an eco-friendly verge garden on a corner over a period of 13-years following the Council’s guidelines. According to the article, their neighbour complained to the council about this verge garden on many occasions.
The verge garden contained “more than 3000 plants & represented more than $50,000 in labour and materials costs.” This is quite substantial.
This is the second time the Town of Cambridge Council has destroyed this particular verge garden. Three years ago they destroyed $12,000 worth of irrigation on the verge. The photo in the article shows a bare patch of land left behind. Even when you see the photos it is hard to believe that any local council would do this.
The article says the verge was water-wise & maintained on a weekly basis by a professional gardener. The verge garden was appreciated by passersby & the local community – until a new neighbour moved in.
The neighbour “explained to us very clearly that he didn’t like native plants & that we must remove them. We explained it was our verge & he was entitled to do what he wished with his. At that time we did not realise how determined this man was.”
The Town of Cambridge said, “The Town supports beautification of verges & water wise initiatives however, in this case, due to ongoing complaints & for safety reasons, the Town had no option but to act. A minimalist approach was taken in removing items to make the verge safe, & we believe the outcome is a compromise situation which should be acceptable to the resident, whilst protecting the safety of the public.”
Have a look at the photos & read the article. Then make up your own mind just how dangerous to the public this verge garden was. You can read the article & see a number of photos here – http://bit.ly/1R1eBVD
Personally, I think this was an outrageous act of the council to destroy this verge garden. If there actually were any components that were dangerous to the public, then the residents should have been given official notification to remove these hazards within a specific time-frame. That would have been the reasonable response. What was not reasonable was for the council to destroy the garden leaving a patch of bare dirt behind.
It must have been devastating for the residents & also would have sent a loud message out to the rest of the Wembley municipality not to bother creating verge gardens when the council responds like this. Understandably the residents whose verge garden it was will not be trying again. The dustbowl created by the council will remain.
I guarantee Perth will be pushing for verge gardens to become the norm as climate change accelerates. They are already experiencing problems with heat & water.
Yesterday I read this post from John Carey Mayor of the City of Vincent in Perth – “There has been a lot of controversy about some local governments forcing the removal of garden verges. At the City of Vincent we love that residents green their verges & want more of it! Our Council has created the Adopt A Verge program – we will dig up your verge, mulch it & provide you native garden vouchers. It’s all about cooling and greening our streets – and making them more people friendly. The program has been so popular we have a waiting list – but we aim to put more funds in. Join us!”
That this post has had nearly 2,000 likes & 275 shares at the time of writing shows how keen the community are about verge gardens.
This is a vastly different attitude & Mayor Carey should be applauded for his enthusiasm & support of verge gardens. Kudos also to the City of Vincent’s method of encouraging & supporting the community to start verge gardens. This kind of initiative is what changes the culture from one that is anti-nature to one that embraces a greener environment that benefits all. Verge gardens make our streets cooler, add beauty when there was often none before. They bring in wildlife & birdsong & create places where people like to meet. They also provide soft learning opportunities for local schools.
Verge gardens are a no-brainer. Hopefully the program of creating more verge gardens carries on if Marrickville Council does have to amalgamate with Ashfield & Leichhardt Councils.