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Screenshot of ‘Health impacts of air pollution – South East Coast Greater Melbourne 2016’ – see http://bit.ly/2tu86I0

First I noticed Sydney Council was reclaiming the road corners & creating verge gardens.  Now Inner West Council is also doing this & I think it is wonderful.

I have seen a few of these popping up around Stanmore, Dulwich Hill & Marrickville, though there may be others in suburbs that I have not seen.

Claiming back land to green it up will have many benefits for the community.  Plants & a street tree will obviously soften the landscape & add beauty.  As the tree grows it will create shade, which will lower the urban heat island effect.   If it is a native tree, it will provide food for urban wildlife, which should a priority in my mind.

Street trees trap particulate matter on their leaves, thereby improving air quality & lowering air pollution levels.

The resulting impact of air pollution on the health of people is starting to gain considerable traction amongst the scientific community.  Air pollution has a tonne of negative impacts such as higher incidence of respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis & emphysema.  Lung capacity & lung function also decreases.

There is an increased risk of cancer, especially breast cancer, as well as heart disease in all ages, including more fatal heart attacks.  Stroke is another high risk.

Air pollution is a threat to child health with lower birth weight & the increased the risk of infection & developmental delays.  Alzheimer’s disease & other dementias are the latest significant health issues found to be linked to air pollution.  The authorities cannot dismiss air pollution considering the incredible amount of suffering & the costs associated with helping people affected by air pollution.

The photos below shows Clarendon Road Stanmore.  The corner has extensive work creating a verge garden & a large garden on what was once road.  A street tree has also been planted.  If this is the way of the future for many of our wide roads & expansive corners, it will transform the streetscapes of the former Marrickville municipality.

I think it is great that Council has started to use these spaces to add green & trees.  They will not impact on driver sight, as clearly demonstrated in neighbouring suburbs that have many more street trees then we do.  Another added benefit is that corners given this treatment may slow drivers down.  They smaller distance pedestrians need to cover to cross the road should also improve safety.

It’s a win for wildlife & a win for the community.

Clarendon Road Stanmore has been transformed.  The opposite side has a small verge garden.

I am pleased to see Council using a variety of native plants. Once grown they could offer habitat for small insects and lizards.

In 2015 Marrickville Council created new verge gardens on both sides of Dickson Street Newtown.  Recently these were planted on a community planting day.  It looks great.

In 2015 Marrickville Council created new verge gardens on both sides of Dickson Street Newtown. They were planted on a community planting day. It looks great, even though this photo was taken before the plants went into the ground.

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.

Photo of a verge garden by Mayor John Carey City of Vincent Council Perth Western Australia.  Used with thanks.

Photo of a verge garden by Mayor John Carey City of Vincent Council, Perth Western Australia. Used with thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine these planted out. It can look very beautiful.

Imagine these planted out. It could look very beautiful.  The consistency & size of gardens looks better to my eyes, even without plants.  

Marrickville Council created some new verge gardens in Albion Street Marrickville & they look wonderful. They are uniform in size & placed regularly along the street. They also provided a decent amount of room for the street trees. I imagine that once planted these gardens will look terrific & increase livability in this street.

The benefits of verge gardens are vast & the benefits change with the type of plants used. At the very least verge gardens mean less concrete, which means a lowering of the urban heat island effect.  Heat collected by concrete during the day releases somewhat during the night & this keeps nighttime temperatures higher than normal. We all know how hard it is to sleep on a hot night. Managing the urban heat island effect can mean lower power bills.

Cooler streets also result in a nicer environment to be in, whether it be in your house, in the front garden or walking the footpath.

Verge gardens that are native or contain some native plants have a profound benefit to wildlife as food & shelter is available for birds, butterflies, other insects & lizards. Native plants at regular intervals provides a corridor of food, which is extremely important if you want birds & other wildlife to be part of your environment.

Without exaggeration the birdlife increased ten-fold after we created our verge garden. Not all the plants are native, but most are. The other 10% were chosen because they would not be stolen & because they were bee attracting. It went from Currawongs & Indian Mynas being the dominant species to many different species of native birds, including little birds, visiting everyday. It sounds different now & can be quite raucous when a flock arrives to eat.

Other benefits of verge gardens include a softening of the landscape, which is very good for the human spirit.  The trees & plants collect particulate matter from passing traffic & therefore improve the air quality.  Verge gardens help to collect storm water & filter this water through the ground cleaning it before it enters the Cooks River. I remember reading in a Council document that the drains in Marrickville LGA have reached capacity, so any water that is collected naturally via the ground helps lessen the load of our drains & prevent flooding.

Well-tended verge gardens raise property values in that street because of the beauty they add. They also reduce graffiti & increase safety because of passive surveillance of people out in the street.

To me it is wonderful to walk along a street with verge gardens. It can look great, provide interest to the eye & I am always looking for beauty. It’s a way to learn about plants, what they are & what works well.  It’s also a way to connect with nature without going to the park.

Verge gardens can improve your mood to & from work, be a nice route to take your dog for a walk & it is always a great way to meet your neighbours.  People are always happy to talk about gardens & plants.  I know that the community, not just one’s neighbours, appreciates good verge gardens.

The footpaths of Marrickville LGA could be utterly transformed in ten years or so & we as a whole community would be much better off for this work.

Azaleas

Azaleas

Another section

Another section 

 

Panorama of Lincoln Street Dulwich Hill

Panorama of Lincoln Street Dulwich Hill

New verge gardens at the entrance to Lincoln Street Dulwich Hill

New verge gardens making a nice entrance to Lincoln Street Dulwich Hill

Last weekend Council staff, Mayor Macri, Clr Haylen & Clr Brooks joined the residents of Lincoln Street Dulwich Hill to plant street trees in newly created verge gardens.  As far as I am aware, this is the first of four streets that are being turned into sustainable streets this year by Marrickville Council.  One day I hope there will be 400 sustainable streets & that verge gardens are the norm across Marrickville LGA.

We went down to Lincoln Street last night to have a look.  It’s a great improvement.  Marrickville Council have removed concrete & created 17 new verge gardens on both sides of the street.  There was already one verge garden on the corner, making 18 in total.  Marrickville Council donated some native grasses & there are some new street trees as well.  The community planted these together last weekend.  In time the street will look greener & the residents will have a much nicer environment.

The benefits of verge gardens are too many to dismiss their positive impact on the urban environment.  Verge gardens often allow street trees to be planted & they cool down the area by adding much needed shade. Even with no street tree, a verge garden cools down the area by reducing the urban heat island effect.

Lovely art work advertising the community planting event. It's great to get kids involved in gardening & the environment.

Lovely art work advertising the community planting event. It’s great to get kids involved in gardening & the environment. Photo by Joanne Pouliezos Katsaros with thanks 🙂

They can add significant beauty depending on what you plant in them.   I’ve seen some stunning verge gardens around Marrickville municipality.  They can attract & support wildlife too, again depending on what you plant in them.

Verge gardens also help capture stormwater, which is very important in helping keep the Cooks River clean & helping the wildlife that lives in & around the river. This captured stormwater also helps water street trees that often struggle in a concrete  & bitumen environment.

Verge gardens also contribute greatly to stopping dumping & littering. Graffiti taggers usually don’t tag when an area looks pretty.

Verge gardens most definitely increase property values because of the beauty they bring & their presence sends a clear message that the neighbourhood is cared for.  I have wondered whether they decrease crime because there is often someone out on the street gardening doing passive surveillance.

Our experience is that you get to know your neighbourhood when you have a verge garden as almost everyone likes to stop & have a chat about the garden.  Verge gardens bring communities together & this is always a good thing in this day & age where people often don’t know their neighbours.  If the street is full of verge gardens like Lincoln Street, they help create a close-knit community where people work for the betterment of all.

You can contact Marrickville Council to ask that your street be transformed into a sustainable street.

Council’s ‘Have Your Say’ website has information on sustainable streets as well as a downloadable Guideline & Checklist for starting verge gardens.   This document is very informative & takes you through all the steps to ensure that your verge garden doesn’t cause problems for vehicles or pedestrians.  It is important to follow procedures so that you don’t inadvertently dig through water pipes or telephone cables, as you will be the one liable for the repair costs.  – http://yoursaymarrickville.com.au/sustainablestreets

If you would like to create a verge garden outside your property, but it is fence to kerb concrete, you can now pay Marrickville Council to remove the concrete for you.  They will do all the work necessary to ensure there is no infrastructure underneath, cut out & take the concrete away & fill the new verge garden with compost allowing you to plant immediately.  Their current charge for doing this is $170 per square metre.   To organize this you need to contact the Sustainable Streets Officer at Marrickville Council.

My own experience is that I always feel good coming home because the first thing I notice is our verge gardens.  From being lawn that was constantly used as a dumping ground for the area’s dated household goods, it is now a thriving patch of beauty that has brought many species of native birds to live here.  Seeing it always makes me feel happy.  Then I go inside where housework waits.

Mayor Macri planting a street tree in Lincoln Street with the residents looking on.  The grasses by the kerb were donated by Council.

Mayor Macri planting a street tree with the residents looking on. The grasses by the kerb were donated by Council.  Photo by Joanne Pouliezos Katsaros with thanks 🙂

Some of the new verge gardens

Some of the new verge gardens with a new street tree

Ana another view. De-paving is great.

Ana another view. De-paving is great.

Some of the new verge gardens in  Lincoln Street Dulwich Hill

Another view.

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