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Sections of Dulwich Hill shopping strip are looking much better than they did a couple of years ago

I was sent a link to a truly wonderful website earlier this week.   The website is about greening the footpaths & public spaces in San Francisco which the group Plant*SF call ‘Paving to Planting.’ Volunteers plant the newly created pavement gardens in San Francisco & make barren concrete, hot, ugly areas look wonderful.

Apart from the hard work of removing the concrete & the physical effort of planting, the process of greening an area is really quite simple.  It just needs people, some funds, suitable locations, cooperation, organization & plants, lots of plants or Council could just do it as part of their usual management of the LGA.

Marrickville Council has started doing verge gardens somewhat like those being created in San Francisco & it is a huge improvement to the past practice of a hole cut into the cement for the odd street tree.   Quite a few streets in Marrickville have had much larger verge gardens prepared around or near existing street trees & native grasses & succulent ground cover planted along with heavy mulching.  These changes have occurred during footpath replacement & apart from looking much better, they allow better access to rainwater for street trees. They also cut down the actual amount of concrete, making footpaths easier on the eye.  I have posted about this here – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/new-works-by-marrickville-council/

The ‘Paving to Planting’ projects done by Plant*SF take what Marrickville Council are doing a step further & is what I think Marrickville Council should be aiming for.

The volunteers of Plant*SF not only remove concrete for a garden bed on the verge, they also remove extraneous concrete beside buildings where they plant vines & espalier trees along walls of buildings so the green walls stop reflecting heat.  They leave a good size footpath & plant along both sides.  This is what I remember from my childhood before the reign of concrete became the norm.

They also add planter-boxes & the odd seat encouraging people to use the footpath as a space to congregate & communicate with their neighbours.  Mind you, their planter boxes show there is quite a difference in effect just with the choice of planter box design.

Council have created a number of new verge gardens along Ewart Street Dulwich Hill

The Heat Island Effect is something we ignore at our peril.  Most of the remedies are so easy, though they do require a change in the way we think things should look like. Making changes to our footpaths & cemented or paved areas is relatively cheap to do & have the potential to be quite pretty as well.

This can only be good for the community because it is known that green plants, flowers & trees make people feel good. It’s been proven that a view of trees relieves anxiety & depression, helps kids with hyperactivity, helps girls study, helps people heal quicker & reduces hospital stay for a start. Concrete only where it has utility, garden beds & plants will make Marrickville LGA a far nicer place to live.

If Marrickville Council do decide to do this, I would hope they start on the areas that have fewer trees & more concrete as I keep discovering areas in the LGA that are really in need of serious greening.

An example of the wrong type of green in Gerald Street Marrickville. This street is in serious need of help.

Our shopping strips, now under threat because of the Marrickville Metro expansion, could also be helped with beautification to encourage more people to shop there.

Paving along shopping strips is nice, but better would be regular spaced planter boxes brimming with plants, hanging pots from awnings, street corners or from poles like City of Sydney Council have done along Glebe Point Road. This would also make the shopping strips much nicer & would have to be cheaper than the $60,000 needed to replace the tiled footpath along a short space of shops.  The hanging pots & planter boxes in Glebe are still going strong more than 18 months after they were installed proving that stepping out of the box can have longevity making the initial outlay of money worthwhile.

This is a big topic & I will be writing about other issues.  Please have a look at the website of Plant*SF. It’s a great article & they have a number of ‘before & after’ photos that illustrate what I am talking about. http://www.plantsf.org/FeaturedProjects.html

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A random view of the Pacific Highway, Sydney. There are just as many trees along most of its length to Hornsby.

In this post I am discussing 2 main roads: the Pacific Highway & Parramatta Road.  Travelling on either road is like travelling in different countries.  I cannot help but be astounded by the difference.

There is really no difference in the utility between the two roads except that Parramatta Road has many more shopping strips. However, I don’t see why this should mean there should be dearth of trees along its length.

The section of Parramatta Road that is under the control of Marrickville & Leichhardt Councils is ugly & getting visually worse as the years pass. The almost treeless state of Parramatta Road under the control of these 2 Councils seems to be a planning decision that was probably made decades ago & little has been done to change it.  Of course, there are other parts of this road that are just as treeless, but I am presently concerned with the section under the control of Marrickville, Leichhardt & City of Sydney Councils.

You can see the demarcation line between Marrickville & Leichhardt Councils & the City of Sydney Council by looking for the presence of street trees.  Once they start you are in City of Sydney territory. Once they stop you are in Marrickville & Leichhardt territory.

A random view of Parramatta Road at Stanmore. The Palm belongs to McDonalds car park.

Sydney City has planted quite a number of Eucalypts along their section of Parramatta Road & the trees are already looking good.  Sydney Council’s action proves it can be done.  Interestingly they planted Eucalypts, trees which some regard as dangerous because of falling branches.  Mind you, the branch die-off is a slow process & is clearly visible to the naked eye. I’d guess that Sydney City Council chose to plant Eucalypts because they grow tall & straight, grow rapidly & also flower providing food for the birds.  I’d also guess they made a decision to check on the trees occasionally & prune any branches that die off as part of general maintenance.

The Pacific Highway is filled with a variety of tall growing trees along its length, again proving that trees can exist on a main thoroughfare.  The trees don’t cause visibility problems for the traffic & they certainly help keep pedestrians safer. The trees also provide a pollution barrier to local housing by capturing particulate matter from the exhausts of passing traffic.  People who live within a block of the Pacific will have much cleaner air than those who live along or near Parramatta Road.

Parramatta Road opposite McDonalds at Stanmore looking towards the city.

It annoys me that Sydney’s Inner West of has to be exposed to more pollution, including visual pollution.   What does it take to cut out concrete & plant trees in available spaces along Parramatta Road? If Leichhardt & Marrickville Councils followed City of Sydney’s lead & planted 3-4 metre high saplings, the effect would be to instantly beautify & green the place. The trees would also have a much greater chance of survival, as they are not sitting ducks to be vandalized.  The new street trees recently planted along Glebe Point Road are proof of this.

I know money is an issue, but is losing 95% of saplings planted each season due to dying for lack of water, accidents, vandalism & the like a wise investment?  Wouldn’t it be better to plant bigger saplings which do cost more, but if watered, are more likely to survive?

Couldn’t the nearest business owner be given a complementary watering can & asked to water the tree?  Council could give them a big bright sticker to put in their window saying that they are caretakers of the street trees with much thanks from Council & the community.  Something like I am a volunteer caretaker of the street tree/s outside this business.

View of the Pacific Hwy just before Chatswood. Even in this area street trees are regularly spaced & of a tall growing species.

People notice these things.  Couldn’t community appreciation awards be given each year to those people & businesses that kept the street trees alive?  Surely this type of recognition would be good for their professional reputation because a large percentage of the community cares about green issues these days.

My dream is that once businesses catch on to the fact that shoppers spend around 11% more where there are shady trees, they will be beating down Council’s door demanding trees be planted.

Parramatta Road is also a main route south of Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Tourists travel along it daily & they will gain an impression of Sydney from this road.  As for the Princes Highway, straight out from the airport…….

The Princes is shamefully ugly.  The section from St Peters to the Cooks River always looked dreadful &, like Parramatta Road, is only getting worse.  Rockdale Council made their section look considerably better & more people-friendly by planting street trees every 3 metres along the whole length of the shopping strip.  Rockdale Council prunes & maintains these trees & although they are trees in cages, they look good.  It is the kind of care that is noticeable & makes people feel good, better connected in their communities & happier.

Trees have this extraordinary capacity to cause people to feel happier & peaceful. Research has been done regarding the effects of trees on peoples’ physical & mental health, so it is not just me banging on. 100 Tree Facts has more information regarding the benefits of trees.  https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/100-tree-facts/

Marrickville Council won’t do anything about this unless we let them know that we want more trees in areas like Parramatta Road where there is tree-poverty.  We should not need to get used to ugliness when the solution is so simple & good for us & our children. If we work or live in areas with a predominance of grey infrastructure, it will have a negative impact on our health & our quality of life.  Besides, the UN says we should be planting 14 billion trees a year across the planet if we are going to have a chance of holding back the thrust towards climate change.

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