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San Francisco has a program Pavements to Parks instigated by the Mayor.  Unused or ugly spaces are made into Parklets, mini green areas for people to enjoy.  In some places they remove a couple of parking spaces to widen the footpath & allow café trading & eating in this area.  Where there is room, areas in the middle of the road have been made into green spaces for people to use. They are not playing sport, rather sitting alone or in groups talking to each other.

The Alpha Club who are leasing & renovating the old Marrickville Council building have created an area next to the footpath that allows people to sit in a green area. It's very new, but it is already very nice. My photo doesn't do it justice.

Parklets have been called ‘quality-of-life generating spaces’ & I would 100% agree with this perception.  The presence of Parklets support a pedestrian culture & encourages people to walk or ride. San Francisco intends to establish 35 other Parklets over the next 12 months.

As urbanisation becomes denser with more people living in areas & with new buildings unlikely to incorporate any serious useful green space, Parklets are going to be what builds communities & helps retain sanity.

They are cheap to create & maintain & the sky’s the limit in the creativity & beauty they can bring.  I think they are a great idea & already needed in Marrickville LGA.  We have so many areas that are concrete wastelands.  Parklets don’t have to be along the main shopping strips. They can be created anywhere that has some space. The people will use a Parklet if it is there.

Just last week I saw 2 people sitting on chairs that they had carried from their home to a concreted space that was in the sunshine. They were sitting drinking coffee & talking.  What was noticeable was that they were not near residential buildings.

I believe spaces like these encourage people outdoors. Being smaller than a park, they increase the likelihood that people will speak with each other. Fostering good relations is all part of building communities. Parklets would also encourage people to look after an area in terms of less littering & tagging by creating community pride.

They will also have the added benefit of helping to lower the Heat Island effect & if the plants used provide food for nectar-eatung birds, then the benefits only increase.  To my mind the benefit of Parklets are too numerous to ignore.

There is a 3.44 minute video that shows a few of the new Parklets in San Francisco & I think it is worth the time spent viewing. There is a few seconds that sound like an advertisement.  Ignore this section because better shots of Parklets follow.

http://www.cooltownstudios.com/2010/07/16/sfs-parklets-trade-parking-for-people

The glorious old Marrickville Council building on Illawarra Road is being renovated by the Alpha Club run by the Greek community. So far they have planted Red Flowering Gums & flowering hedges. I think it already looks beautiful

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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

Yesterday I received an e-mail from Voren, a local resident which included a bunch of photos of mutilated street trees on Riverside Crescent Dulwich Hill.  These photos are a perfect example of how the streetscape can be ruined by pruning for electricity cables.  I was extremely happy to receive these & welcome any photos or addresses of public trees you think is worth the attention of SoT.  My e-mail address can be found on the About me page.

Voren's photos of the street trees in Riverside Crescent Dulwich Hill

On 26th January 2010 the Cumberland Courier ran another street tree article titled Tears for mutilated trees.  This time the residents of Lalor Park were distressed at the state Integral Energy left their 50-year-old street trees after pruning for overhead wires.  Terms such as “hacked,” “massacred,” “mutilated” & “butchered” were used to describe the aftermath.

Back in October 2009 Blacktown City Council put Integral Energy on notice about their pruning practices after they had pruned the trees in Riverstone & surrounding suburbs.

When they saw what happened to the street trees in Lalor Park, Blacktown Council stepped in & suspended Integral Energy’s powerline clearance pruning work.

Integral Energy apologised & now has to work under the supervision of Blacktown Council, review their tree pruning practices & fulfil a range of other requirements.

Hallelujah!  Finally a municipal council stepping in to ensure the street trees are not mutilated to the point where it is questionable whether they will survive, where the streetscape is marred for many years, where once beautiful trees are ruined forever & where people have to lose an essential part of what makes a street a desirable place to live as well as the negative impact on property values.  It may be that a council has stepped in before, but apart from Mosman Council doing so many years ago, I am unaware of this.

There is more of this tree on the ground than what is left on the tree

The Lalor Park residents say they no longer have shade on the street or footpath.  I can attest to that as my own street lost the shade from the street trees after recent pruning by Energy Australia.  When the sun is overhead we now have the long shadow of the electricity & pay TV cables instead of shade from street trees.  Frankly it looks weird & of course it is hot.

You can’t stand under a street tree having a chat to your neighbours anymore.  You have to look for shade & move to it, either on private property or walk across the road where the street trees were only slightly pruned.  This apparently small thing will have an impact on community relations over time.

This is a great article from the Cumberland Courier with much more information than I have reported.  You can read it by clicking on the following link – http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/tears-for-mutilated-trees/ I thank the Cumberland Courier as they have been reporting on trees frequently of late.

Friends of the Urban Forest in San Francisco USA recently posted a call for help on their web-site asking residents to alert them to public trees which have been illegally pruned.

Friends of the Urban Forest & the Bureau of Urban Forestry (don’t you love these names) have planted 10,928 new street trees in San Francisco since 2003.

About street trees they say, “The small, younger trees currently provide very little environmental benefit…” meaning that if older more mature trees are removed due to heavy pruning which weakens them or makes them way too ugly, then replacing them is not as good as a solution as it seems on the surface.  Personally I am worried that in our LGA we will reach the stage where we will have more young trees with thin trunks than we will have older trees.

Older trees sequester greater amounts of CO2, filter more particulate matter & other pollutants (though you need leaves to do this & there are plenty of trees with thick trunks, but with relatively few branches & leaves after pruning in Marrickville LGA), produce larger amounts of oxygen & collects more storm water runoff than does a tree with a thin trunk.

We can already see in some areas of our LGA that the skyline has few tall trees.  I think it is a shame that we can count the trees visible along the skyline.  This is not the case in many other suburbs of Sydney metropolitan area where the overall look & feel is green because their canopy is substantial.

We need to keep as many of the large stature street trees as we are able & our young trees need to be given a chance to grow up because it is then they provide the most benefit.  Severe pruning clearly demonstrated in Voren’s photographs not only makes the tree ugly & negatively impacts the streetscape & our lives, but also weakens the tree making it more susceptible to disease.  A weakened & diseased tree will be more likely to fall in a storm or some other event that places pressure upon it.

I do understand that street trees need to be pruned for the passage of overhead wires & I have never advocated that this should be stopped.  I do believe however that our electricity companies can do a much better job of pruning & Blacktown Council’s intervention has proved this.

The article by Friends of the Urban Forest is interesting reading & describes the impact of over pruning & topping.  They also have some fantastic photographs of trees that have been severely mutilated.  You can access this via the following link – http://www.fuf.net/getInvolved/topping.html

Tempe Wetlands - how will the RTA put a major arterial road over this without destroying it?

On a final note, a local community group called Tempe 2010 is holding a rally on Saturday 6th February at 11am meeting in South Street (between Hart & Fanning Streets) Tempe.  They are opposing the building of a new arterial road that is to go over the Cooks River, across the newly renovated Tempe Reserve & over the top of the lovely Tempe Wetlands ending at a t-section at Sydney Park.

SoT is interested not only because of the obvious factors of more roads, traffic, noise & pollution, but also because the Tempe Reserve is likely to be grossly affected & the damage to the wetlands is a real concern.  There is also the question of how many trees will need to be removed to build this new road.

All the details as well as how to access information from the RTA about this project & to connect with Tempe 2010 can be accessed via the Marrickville Greens web-site http://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/

The Greens have been in the Inner West Courier about this issue recently & have stated they are against this project as it stands.  I hope the other councillors look into the impact of the new arterial road & decide to publicly oppose it if it is indeed as environmentally destructive as it seems to be.  I say ‘seems’ because I haven’t looked into the literature as yet.

We cannot keep building cities for cars instead of people.  Four vulnerable assets; the Cooks River, Tempe Reserve, the many old park trees & the Tempe Wetlands need to be fought for & protected by both Marrickville Council & the community if this project negatively impacts on these.  One visit to these areas will show you just how much work Marrickville Council & community groups have put into improving all these sites over the years.  I think this is a worthwhile event to attend & find out what we need to know to make an informed decision.  It is also good to support a community group who is working to save quite significant assets for our benefit & for future generations.  J

In Kansas the energy supplier Westar wants to remove 12 trees from a city park.  Work has been delayed while city officials take a tour to see if there is another solution.  The energy company has to explain to city officials why they need to remove these mature trees.  Read this article here –

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2010/jan/21/westar-grants-delay-removal-trees/

Malakoff St Marrickville

I thought this article was interesting when comparing our own energy companies in Australia who, as I understand it, have carte blanche over both private & public trees if they consider them impeding electricity cables.

I remember being astounded that the stumps of large mature Elm trees, which were chopped down by Energy Australia in Salisbury Road Camperdown mid 2009, were left for Marrickville Council to remove.  Not only had the community lost several mature & very beautiful trees, but we also had to pay for the stump removal as well.  So, for the equivalent of a municipal council in America having the power to require the manager of Customer & Community Relations to give good reason why 12 public trees needed to be cut down is very interesting & highlights the difference in community attitudes towards public trees.

I sincerely believe that, if the Australian community & elected officials seriously challenged the way street trees are pruned for cables, our power companies would make changes.  Power is no longer a monopoly & they are hungry for our business.  I know because energy providers knock on our front door several times a year to try to lock us into a contact with them.

Staying with energy providers, Tucson Electric Power in Tucson Arizona USA are offering their customers up to 4 shade trees for US$8 to help lower their energy use costs.  Recipients of the trees are given instructions as to where on their property they should plant the trees to best help save energy.  Some of the saplings are 160 cm tall.   People whose homes were built 1980 & later are allowed 2 trees while houses built earlier can get 4 trees.  That’s US$2 per tree & if it were offered for the Inner West, it would mean 4 trees for most of us. Tucson Electric Power has understood the value of trees because they started this program in 1993 (wow) & have distributed 50,000 trees to date.   It is something I think our energy providers could do well to copy & would go along way to improving their image.  To read the article click on the following – http://www.kold.com/Global/story.asp?S=11841260

In San Francisco USA a group called Friends of the Urban Forest have set up a program where for US$75 you can have tree planted wherever you want on the footpath provided there are no utilities underneath which would be adversely affected by digging. I don’t know whether Friends of the Urban Forest is a community group, part of council or a partnership between both.  Regardless, what a wonderful program.  The right trees get planted in the right places & all the support & education needed is provided & the community has a say. As far as I can gather, in America generally the saplings they plant are 1.8 to 3 metres tall & quite established.

Imagine if a person like myself had a million dollars to spare.  I could go crazy pointing to all the barren, cemented places along our streets & by the time I run out of money 13,333 trees would have been added to our LGA with US$25 left over to spend on whatever. It’s a pleasant dream.  To read about this wonderful program, click on the following link – http://mergy.org/2010/01/09/simple-summary-of-getting-a-tree-with-fuf/

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