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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.

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.

We went to Berowra Waters today, which required driving up the Pacific Highway.  The last time I did this I wrote about the street trees.  This time I wanted to see specifically what the differences were between the Pacific Highway & the sections of Princes Highway & Parramatta Road in Marrickville LGA.

There were a number of noteworthy differences.  The Pacific Highway has thousands of street trees along its length.  A significant number of these trees are Eucalypts.  They cascade over the highway, many having branches which cross over 3 lanes & sometimes as far as the opposite side of the highway.

Bottle Brushes are not the dominant street tree, with most trees being of a taller growing species.  Many of the street trees are 1/3 higher than the power poles & thick trunks are quite common.

Far less than 50% of the trees have trunks that are as thin as an upper arm.  Many street trees were planted around 3 metres apart, which helped create a decent canopy.  Most of the trees have a natural shape & I did not see a single tree in a cage even within the shopping strips

The street trees planted in shopping strips spilled out from under the awnings & loomed over the highway.  Naturally to achieve this they did not have straight trunks & they have not removed because of this.

Autumn colours

Much of the Pacific Highway has a grass verge with a narrow footpath.  Only the shopping strips are paved or cemented.  The grass verge serves to soften the environment, which is quite an achievement considering the Pacific Highway is one of the top 10 heavily trafficked roads in Australia.  I watched the verge of the Highway for its length wondering how they were managing with far less cement.  I noticed the footpaths were narrower than in the Inner West & many trees hung over the path requiring any pedestrians to either duck or weave their way around the tree.  I actually saw this happen & it appeared to cause no difficulty for the pedestrian who was a woman over 50.  So very different from here, where just last week a council worker took to our fence with a whipper-snipper to hack away 20 centimetres of errant camellia which protruded out from under the fence.  Considering the footpath outside our fence is a wide one for the area, I thought this was overkill.

So do we sanitise & control nature more than they do on Sydney’s North Shore?  I think we do.

In direct opposition is our section of the Princes Highway & Parramatta Road, both of which are an eye-sore in my opinion.  The Princes Highway cannot possibly get uglier & being so close to the airport, it is one of the gateways to Sydney. The roads directly surrounding the airport were heavily planted with street trees, shrubs & flowers for the 2000 Olympics.  In the main, they still look good & are maintained by Botany Council.  I doubt once the visitor leaves these roads & comes to the Princes Highway that they will have a favourable impression of the area.  The Princes Highway is in the main a worship of cement.  Soot stained, dirty cement.  One can count the street trees & they are a sad, straggly lot.  There is a gross lack of green infrastructure.  This changes when the Princes Highway comes under the jurisdiction of City of Sydney Council at one end & Rockdale Council at the other.  For a green council, Marrickville seems to be ignoring this stretch of highway.

The same can be said for Parramatta Road, which is stark in its lack of green infrastructure, though it is slightly less ugly than the Princes Highway because of the type of grey infrastructure (some may debate this).  Again, Leichhardt Council & City of Sydney Council have planted threes where Parramatta Road comes under their control, though City of Sydney Council has done far more work & planted many more street trees.  If City of Sydney, Rockdale & Leichhardt Councils can plant street trees along these main roads, why can’t Marrickville Council?

Red-flowering Gum provides food for the birds & possums

Why do we need so much cement?  Trees help the longevity of grey infrastructure like cement footpaths because their shade protects from the harsh sun.  We also know that roofs, roads & footpaths cause the heat island effect & trees lower this.  Temperatures can be 9 degrees cooler in the shade of a tree.

The North Shore is deemed classier.  I think this is not because of the housing stock, but because of the plentiful tall trees & the significant green canopy. Friends have told me they moved to the North Shore because of the trees.  Balmain & Paddington were built as working class suburbs as were those in Marrickville LGA, yet both these suburbs are regarded as better suburbs & their properties are generally worth more.  Why?  Is it the presence of water? Being close to the city?  Perhaps, but Marrickville LGA is also close to the city & has its own beautiful Cooks River.

I think it is because of the trees.  On the drive back from Hornsby, the closer you get to Marrickville the more you notice the trees thin out, get shorter, look less healthy & street tree after street tree have been severely hacked.  The trees on the North Shore aren’t hacked in this way.



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