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The view of housing development on Canal Road Alexandria.

A little further along Canal Road Alexandria – housing.

Sydneysiders need to be aware & highly concerned at the rapid growth & loss of green space that is currently happening, plus the plans to take even more green space away.

Once the green space is gone, it is gone forever.

The loss of green space is a serious public health issue.  Green space not only provides valuable habitat for wildlife, but it also cools the area around it.  We need places with trees, grass & other vegetation.

We need green places for our mental, physical & spiritual health.  Without access to decent green spaces human beings tend to suffer.   People who suffer from mental illness can feel more settled when they are out in nature.

Recent research found without going into green spaces on a regular basis, people tend to get stressed, anxious, depressed, move less & gain weight.  Many of us suffer morbid rumination, where we go over & over what we perceive are our failings or what is wrong with our lives.  Just going for a walk where there are good trees can stop this mental thought process & improve our happiness & life satisfaction levels.

Green spaces provide us with a stress break in our busy lives & gives our mind a break from mental fatigue. Regular experience in the leafy outdoors helps improve work performance.  It also helps improve our cognitive function, memory & ability to learn & retain information.

The intellectual development of children improves when they have contact with nature.   Those who have ADD/ADHD tend to respond well to time spent in nature & have more content retention ability.

Research found that plants in the workplace resulted in decreased sick leave, so imagine the impact if there was nice green space for workers to have their lunch.

Those with Alzheimers or dementia are helped by being in green space & being able to touch plants.

Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.”  See – http://nyti.ms/2lmPlzr

It is a fundamental need of human beings to have access to good green spaces.  By good green spaces, I am not talking about a small patch of green on a main street or in a shopping mall, though these do have a significant role to play in offering areas of respite & helping lowering the urban heat island effect.

We all need areas where we can exercise for free without needing to pay for a gym membership.  We need space to let off steam, to run, to shout, to play games alone or with friends.

We also need spaces where were can walk or sit quietly – where the only sound is nature; the wind in the trees & birds singing.  We must keep those we have & not over develop them.

In my opinion, Council has a fundamental responsibility not to turn every green space into an entertainment venue.    Places must be left where the only entertainment is what you can see in the natural environment around you.  If people become depended on things to be provided for them to do in parks, they will lose the ability to relax or amuse themselves with whatever is around.

As our suburbs become more developed, our stress levels are likely to rise just doing everyday things like driving & shopping.  Already traffic is a major negative issue in the locality & parking is often a nightmare.

Our streets are also green spaces – or they can be depending on the species of street tree planted.  Squatty small canopy street trees do not have an impact, but big, full canopy street trees do.  Have a look at the streets that are fortunate enough to have 80-year-old plus Brushbox trees.  In the evening on hot days you will likely see pockets of people who have gathered outside in the shade.  Good street trees are excellent at fostering connectivity between neighbours.

Verge gardens encourage connectivity as well.  People like to talk about plants & gardening.  Verge gardens offer the ability to swap plants & provide cuttings.

Today the news reported that the Total Environment Centre has identified more than 70 green spaces across Sydney at risk of being lost to development.  See – http://bit.ly/2nrf0qZ

This is most concerning.  If allowed to go ahead, habitat will be lost, wildlife will suffer & in cases like Cooks Cove where they want to develop the wetlands in Barton Park (see – http://bit.ly/2jey4Xi ) migratory birds, frogs & other creatures will die.

The report from the Total Environment Centre said, “Sydney will build 664,000 homes between 2011 and 2031, with 60-70 per cent coming from “infill” developments within existing city boundaries.” 

We as the community will have to make our voice heard, considering the views of Anthony Roberts, the Minister in charge of Planning and Housing Affordability who said, “Anti-development activists are welcome to suggest ideas to me that will help us grow housing supply in NSW while protecting their favourite trees.”

I’ve got an idea Minister Roberts.  How about leaving all the green spaces alone & not allowing development in these areas.  It’s quite simple really.  Leave the parks, the golf courses & riversides for the community & so people in the future can use them as well.

I get annoyed at the simplistic view of politicians who, whenever the community speaks out against developing areas like Barton Park wetlands, say they are anti-development NIMBYs wanting people to move out of Sydney.  Do these political leaders not see another way in which green spaces & areas of vital habitat cab be retained for the benefit of the whole community now & most certainly for the benefit of future generations?  It can be done.

We had three heatwaves in February 2017 & this is expected to get worse as climate change accelerates.  Green spaces are essential components of a livable city.  That or we take a risk every year that heat wave events will be more frequent.  Loss of human life has happened in cities across the world as a result of heat waves.  Our government warned us that the power supply was likely to be shut off because of increased use of air-conditioning.

The urban heat island effect is another serious health issue that is relatively ignored.  Roads are still being covered in black bitumen as a way of maintaining them despite knowing that these are major heat sinks.

On 10th February 2017 the temperature at Blaxland Riverside Park in Sydney Olympic Park was 41.6 degrees in the shade.  However, some of the soft play surfaces in the children’s playground were around 84 degrees.  The road surface in the car park was almost 73 degrees.  This gives you an idea of our future if our gardens & streets are not significantly greened & if we lose green spaces.  See – http://bit.ly/2lxujhu

“As Sydney’s population is growing there’s more houses, less trees, less green, more roads … it’s adding to the heat.  ….. The way we’re going – and adding another million people plus an airport, more roads, more pollution, more industry, we can expect 10 more extreme hot days a year over 35 [degrees] ….. It will become the norm. Without the proper designs [and planning] the problem will only get worse.” ~ Stephen Bali, president of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils.

I remind you that the former Marrickville municipality has the least green space in Australia.  We cannot afford to lose any of it, not even a morsel despite whatever the so-called gain to the community is slated to be.  We cannot comment on public consultation in either the Leichhardt or Ashfield LGAs, despite being amalgamated into one large council.  Therefore, Marrickville’s abysmal amount of green space should not be watered down by including green space from the other two municipalities we have amalgamated with.

Council should be taking every opportunity they can to add to the green space by transforming suitable areas of public space.  I think they failed with Alex Trevallion Plaza in Marrickville Road Marrickville, the Marrickville Town Hall Forecourt & the latest being the unusually large street space area on the corner of Canterbury Road & Herbert Street Dulwich Hill, though this is my own opinion.

The public space outside the Victoria Road entrance of Marrickville Metro is also an area eliciting much conversation within the community.  All that I have read or heard has been negative.  Whether you like what Metro has done is personal, but there is no doubt a heat sink has been created with all that concrete & tiling.  It is also a big loss to see that a number of mature trees have been removed.

Corner of Canterbury Road and Herbert Street Dulwich Hill – an unusual opportunity by Council to make a truly green and inviting space for the community in this location. Missed opportunity and I bet this work cost a lot.

The space behind the above photo in Herbert Street Dulwich Hill. I am glad it is grass and not concrete, but what would be wrong with planting a couple of shade trees here and adding some benches. It could be a useful space for the community.

Marrickville Town Hall Forecourt today – ugly and hot.  Not an attractive meeting place for the community.  This cost $575,000

Alex Trevallion Plaza in Marrickville Road – speaks for itself.

Alex Trevallion Plaza. Two of the skinny gum trees died, so instead of replacing them, Council filled the holes with bitumen. Message: we cannot expect this place to look better for a long time.

New entrance to Marrickville Metro. I will post photos of their other landscaping work next post.  Numerous mature trees, a grassy knoll and plumbago hedge on three sides of seating was also removed.  It has been suggested that C stands for Concrete.

Panorama of Tempe Reserve playing fields

Panorama of Tempe Reserve playing fields

Parents & children gathering under the shade of trees in Enmore Park

Parents & children gathering under the shade of trees in Enmore Park

“Savvy states & communities are starting to think about green space in a more thoughtful & systematic way. They realize that green infrastructure is not a frill—it is smart conservation for the twenty-first century.” ~ Mark A. Benedict & Edward T.McMahon, Conservation Fund

It’s ‘Parks Week’ in Australia & New Zealand.  I’ve not heard of it until today.  Parks Week aims to –

  •  “Highlight & celebrate the important role parks play – across people, communities, & the natural environment;
  • “Highlight & celebrate the important role parks play – across people, communities, & the natural environment;
  • Encourage greater use of parks;
  • Celebrate the contribution that volunteers make to parks;
  • Promote the healthy parks, healthy people message;
  • Promote park management agencies & the work they do.” http://bit.ly/1hEEF7Q

We know there is a clear connection between access to good green space & the quality of the urban forest to mental & physical health.  Marrickville municipality has the least green space in the whole of Australia & researchers from Deakin University found that in 2010, Marrickville was the unhappiest suburb in Australia.

For residents of Marrickville municipality, our urban forest & parks are of vital importance & will become more so with the fairly intensive development on the horizon.  Approval has been given for 12,000 new residences, so there will be more people using the limited green space.  Hopefully developers will stop building right to the footpath & will include trees & green space in their housing developments, as this will increase livability & make for happier residents.

One thing is certain; we cannot afford to lose any of our public green space & what we have needs to be made so that it is inviting & useable.  We have a number of great parks, but we also have green space that is no more than an empty block of grass. This is a wasted opportunity that whether consciously or not, has a negative impact on the immediate neighbourhood.

Parks are more than a piece of ground with a few trees & grass.  They are essential to neighbourhood & community wellbeing.  To complicate matters, we all have different ideas of what makes a park great.  Some want natural bushy sections; some want a playground, while others want playing fields.  If a park is big enough, it can incorporate all of these aspects.  Pocket parks however have limited space & so often have a limited ability to meet a range of needs.

A good example of a virtually worthless pocket park that fortunately Marrickville Council are going to upgrade is Murdoch Park in Illawarra Road Marrickville.  Until recently it was called Murdoch Playground, yet there was nothing in this park except grass, a concrete path from one side to the other, two old broken concrete benches & some signs.

Council intends to spend $20,000 upgrading this park in 2014 by adding plants, shade trees & new seats.  I imagine it will go from a place that no-one uses to a place that people will use, all because it will have been made inviting.   I am looking forward to seeing what Council does.  If Amy Playground is a benchmark, I expect it will be good.

Parks can show off a suburb if they are great.  If they are empty, ugly or in disrepair they can negatively effect perceptions of that neighbourhood & can also attract criminal behaviour.  Therefore beautiful parks are a bonus to the neighbourhood & their presence has far reaching impact.

Parks can revitalize a community. They can bring people outdoors & break down barriers.  People can make friends in parks because they may be doing the same activity allowing them to feel comfortable speaking to people they do not know.  Children’s playgrounds & exercise areas are a great example of this, as are dog-walking areas.  Everyone knows that if you want to meet people, walk your dog or even someone else’s dog.  Great parks also attract older people & so can break down age barriers.

Parks offer respite & if designed as such, can offer peace away from the hubbub of traffic, noise & other human activity.  Central Park in Manhattan is a great example where one can find peace & quiet in a city of 1.619-million people (2012) living in an area of 87.46 km².   Much has to do with both the size (340-hectares) & design of the park, as well as the 24,000 plus trees.  By comparison & closer to home, Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens cover 64-hectares (Botanic Garden: 30-hectares & The Domain: 34-hectares) & between them they have approximately 4,770 trees.

Research has found that people who only have a view of concrete experience greater levels of aggression & violence & their children have a greater range of psychologically aggressive behaviours, than those who have a green outlook.   This shows that it is better for your family’s health is you forgo the stamped concrete driveway or concreted back garden & put in the least amount of hard surfaces as you can.  Green is far better for mental health than grey surfaces.

Parks also absorb stormwater & cool the urban heat island effect.  I was surprised to read that the Western Channel Subcatchment in Marrickville South has 78% hard surfaces.  This is terrible for stormwater management, but it also shows that grey infrastructure is dominating the visual outlook in this area & this is not good for community wellbeing.  The riverside parks would be offsetting this to a large degree, but only for the people that use these parks.

Parks can also build communities, but they need to be appealing to attract people to use them.  Parks also have an important role of supporting biodiversity & they passively educate people about the importance of nature.  Kids who often spend time in parks & other natural settings are more likely to grow up to be adults who care about the environment.  There has been lots of research focusing on the change where children are now spending the bulk of their time indoors & under adult supervision.  There are many research papers on the change in kids play here – http://bit.ly/MHsL1C

Parks need good trees, shady trees & trees that are shaped liked trees, not shaped like street trees.  Side branches are an inherent part of a tree & do not need their side branches to be pruned off when the tree is in a park.  The beauty that a tree provides is an important asset in any park, so trees should be allowed to look their best.  Monoculture is not a good look either.

Parks also need sufficient seating, including seating away from busy areas such as playgrounds, barbeques & major pathways.  Facing them to look at the view is a good idea.  Older people or those with health issues often do not go to the park because of a lack of seating or they do not want to sit in or near the playground.

Shade is also important.  I don’t know about you, but the sun feels really harsh to me these days & I often find it too hot to be outdoors.  Steel Park with its magnificent broad-leafed Poplars that provide dappled shade across the park bring coolness that is wonderful on a hot day.  Kids can run where they please & people can spread out because they are not trying to fit under limited shade.

A tin roof kiosk may look good, but you can bake sitting under these structures on a hot day.  Trees cool & clean the air & that green that is so positive & potent to the human being’s health.  All our parks should be filled with all kinds of trees.

“Show me a healthy community with a healthy economy & I will show you a community that has its green infrastructure in order & understands the relationship between the built & the unbuilt environment.” ~ Will Rogers, Trust for Public Land.

Marrickville's newest park at the end of High Street & fronting Ruby Street.  I don't know if it has been officially named yet.

Marrickville’s newest park at the end of High Street & fronting Ruby Street. I don’t know if it has been officially named yet.

Warren Park Marrickville

Warren Park Marrickville

Sydney Park is not in Marrickville municipality.  I include it here because I think the trees & the variety of species is wonderful.  Just imagine what this place will look like in ten or twenty years.  They have planted hundreds of Fig trees too.

Sydney Park is not in Marrickville municipality. I include it here because I think the trees & the variety of species is wonderful. Just imagine what this place will look like in ten or twenty years. They have planted hundreds of Fig trees too.

 

 

Tilman Park Tempe has some lovely features & some beautiful tall trees, including a Fig. Boulders are placed under the Fig so you can sit in the shade & watch the park.

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.

Bain Playground Stanmore has lovely mature trees & a great streetscape.

“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

The Poplar trees along the Cooks River near Mackey Park Marrickville South make this a lovely cool & shady walk. There is always lots of bird song & when there is a breeze the leaves make a beautiful sound.

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

Because there is shade Wicks Park is a great place to be on a hot day.

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