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We cycled up New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill last week & were surprised at the large developments happening there. Our area is changing fast.
One of the high-rise blocks has four Brushbox trees planted out front, though one is already dead. Street trees of this kind will enhance the streetscape and keep the footpath area cool so I am glad they were planted.
The other high-rise building has no street trees, just a long expanse of brand new concrete.
If this is going to be the future look for New Canterbury Road, then I think it is a missed opportunity. Inner West Council needs to insist that developers include a decent number of street trees as part of the development & dare I say, verge gardens. There certainly is room enough for them.
When NSW Transport built the light rail stations, they did not stop at station infrastructure. They also planted trees & other plants extensively both inside & around the light rail stations & made these places quite attractive. It is this that I would like to see developers do when they build a new building for the area – to look at the streetscape surrounding & especially in front of their development. What they don’t spend in concrete, they can spend on street trees & plants. I learnt from listening to the architect for The Revolution in Marrickville that if something “green” is not mandatory, then they don’t bother to include it in the development.
More & more around Sydney I am noticing busy roads including verge gardens & it all works well. With climate change starting to really make its impact & with three heatwaves already this year, development needs to change into something that assists the community. Concrete does not cut it anymore. We know too much about how great expanses of concrete is bad for us & exacerbates heat.
I also think Council should make it mandatory to have street side building awnings to be of the kind that has cutouts to allow the canopy of a street tree to grow & gain height as is the norm all along the Princes Highway in North Sydney. They have tall Brushbox trees growing along their business/shopping strip & all the trees have space for their canopy to grow. It looks good & not only that, it is sensible. I’ve also seen this in Waterloo. Why can we not have this in our area?
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.
I’ve just spent a very interesting block of time using the new ‘Trees and Health App’ designed by ‘The Healthy Trees, Healthy People’ program at Portland State University in the USA. 13 cities of the United States are covered in this app with more cities planned for the future.
The main research questions were –
- “How do different canopy designs (type, composition, distribution, and location of vegetation) improve air quality and reduce the heat island formation in urban landscapes?
- Which canopy designs are best for reducing the incidence of acute respiratory illness in neighborhood residence most exposed to air pollutants?
- Which canopy designs are most promising for reducing health care costs to the United States?” [I love to read this as I have always said that the lack of trees is a health issue resulting is significant ongoing costs for the community. If you want better health in a community, then the urban forest & canopy cover needs to be better than good. At 16.3% the canopy of Marrickville municipality is deemed poor.]
The following puts the issues better than I can – “A growing body of research is drawing the link between human health outcomes and the presence – or absence – of trees. Urban street trees slow traffic, provide sidewalk shade, improve air quality, and reduce the urban heat island effect, contributing to improved health outcomes for children, older adults, and those living in poverty. Air quality vulnerability varies between neighborhoods – and so does the presence of trees – but new trees are rarely planted with these variations in mind.” See – http://bit.ly/1F5xYuU
The ‘Trees and Health App’ has three functions – to assess, prioritize & plan. Each of these delivers a lot of important information about the urban forest of the particular city mapped. Detailed information can be gathered about –
- Percentage of canopy cover [note – this is different from the number of trees. Canopy cover refers to the proportion is how much land area is covered by tree crowns when viewed from the air.]
- Traffic related air quality.
- Urban heat island index.
- Percentage of residents under age 18 years. [Young people are included because of the significant impact on their health when the canopy cover is poor.]
- Percentage of residents over age 65 years. [The health of older people is more at risk by a poor canopy cover.]
- Percentage of residents living under poverty level. [Of interest is that wealthier suburbs generally have more trees, including street trees & street landscaping. This is easy to see across Sydney, & also easy to see in Marrickville LGA, though rising housing costs are making so-called ‘less desirable suburbs’ million dollar suburbs despite a poor canopy cover.]
- Vulnerable populations.
The first function of the app, ‘Access’ shows the vulnerability to poor air quality in any neighbourhood. The map has colour gradations that allow you to have an overview at a glance, then, go to any area you choose for more information. Sliders filter neighborhoods by value. You can even ask the app to show you the worst neighbourhoods in terms of lack of canopy cover.
The second function, ‘Prioritize’ allows you to get further details regarding neighborhood vulnerability statistics. It also allows you to find the areas that most need trees.
The third function, ‘Plan’ allows you to set a tree-planting goal in either a particular neighbourhood or to increase the current canopy cover. You can even choose whether you plant trees that are small, medium or large at maturity & whether these will actually allow you to achieve your goal. The app will also tell you how many trees you need to plant in any particular block or neighbourhood.
You can even go further into an area by getting the app to break it down to street blocks.
All the information can be printed off into a jpg, pdf or exported in ESRI Shapefile format.
This is a basic overview of what the app can do. It provides way more information than I have covered, but you can read more & use the app yourself by going to their internet page. I most certainly recommend doing this, as it is a unique experience that will have you thinking about our own canopy cover.
One can only hope that this app is purchased for use in Australia as many local councils could benefit greatly from this remarkable app. The days of saying, “We have (insert number) thousand street trees” is over. This information is stuff of the past.
Thanks to the many researchers who have studied the urban tree canopy, we now know that the health impacts are significant, the cost the community is significant, as well as ongoing & that poorer areas have less street trees & less landscaping. I have often wondered whether the lack of street trees & pleasant landscaping in poorer areas is a choice by local councils to attempt to keep some suburbs more affordable.
Certainly this article believes that there is a clear demonstration that income equality can be seen from space. Communities with a lower income have fewer trees than high-income communities. See – http://bit.ly/1r0snht
You can find out about the Trees and Health App’ here – http://bit.ly/1KkJAqz
They have also made a video which can be viewed here – http://bit.ly/1JecLKc
I was really pleased to see that Marrickville Council has recently replaced a stretch of footpath beside Memory Reserve on Unwins Bridge Road Sydenham & created a verge garden. They planted grasses & to me, this kind look good. The grasses also match the work done just inside Memory Reserve. They will visually soften this area.
Marrickville Council planted 430 new street trees this 2014 planting season, 130 more trees than last year’s planting season.
Every new street tree is a boon in my opinion, but some of the places Council has planted trees is an extra boon.
I was very pleased to see that Victoria Road Marrickville has been planted with many new street trees & verge gardens installed. Trees were much needed in this area & they will improve the visual outlook of the streetscape.
I was also pleased to see that four Queensland Brushbox trees have been planted almost opposite the Beynon & Haywood building on Livingstone Road Petersham. These also have verge gardens.
Both sites look improved already. In a few years they should look really lovely.
Marrickville Council is holding a free half-day propagating workshop. A teacher from Ryde TAFE will deliver the workshop.
There are still vacancies for this Saturday 25th October 2014.
I’ve done this workshop & loved it. See – http://bit.ly/1k1Qvvq I learnt a lot & gained confidence in propagating native plants.
If you have a particular native that is doing well in your garden, this workshop will help you learn how to propagate clones for your garden, verge and/or to share with friends & neighbours. Propagating also helps save lots of money.
DATE: Saturday 25th October 2014
TIME: 1.30pm – 5.30pm
WHERE: Marrickville Community Nursery, Addison Road Centre, Addison Road Marrickville.
Afternoon tea supplied, plus course notes.
BOOK: by calling Council 9335 2222 during business hours.
A shocking article in The Guardian today of research findings by scientists from the World Wildlife Fund & the Zoological Society of London called the ‘Living Planet Report,’ which found that 50% of wild animals on this Earth have been lost in the past 40-years – that’s since 1974.
The cause of such astronomical loss has been unsustainable hunting for food, habitat destruction & pollution.
A graph shows that 37% loss was caused by exploitation of wildlife, 31% habitat degradation & change, 13% habitat loss with 7% only for climate change. The remaining 11% came under the heading of ‘other.’
With development charging ahead, an ever-increasing human population & climate change starting to bite, these numbers will be increasing dramatically & soon, unless we make specific choices to act to prevent any further loss & take immediate & meaningful action to support the remaining wildlife. Obviously retaining & protecting forests is of paramount importance, but so is increasing the areas of real habitat to support biodiversity in urban areas.
“Currently, the global population is cutting down trees faster than they regrow, catching fish faster than the oceans can restock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them and emitting more climate-warming carbon dioxide than oceans and forests can absorb. ….today’s average global rate of consumption would need 1.5 planet Earths to sustain it. But four planets would be required to sustain US levels of consumption, or 2.5 Earths to match UK consumption levels.”
Australia was rated number 13 in the Top 20 Countries with the Biggest Ecological Footprint. Kuwait Number was number 1, the US was number 8 & the UK number 20.
Rivers were the hardest hit with animal numbers plummeting by 75% since 1970. Just one more reason why we need to do whatever we can to restore & protect our own Cooks River.
Land animals have fallen by 40% since 1970 & marine animals also fallen by 40%. “But the big declines in wildlife in rich nations had already occurred long before the new report’s baseline year of 1970 – the last wolf in the UK was shot in 1680.” You can read the article here – http://bit.ly/1vrStsU
We can all take responsibility & make choices to do what we can to prevent further species loss. The following are some of the more obvious, but if we all did these, the impact would be profound & it would help our planet & the species that live here with us.
- Buy local food in season, even if it costs a few cents more. Grow food if you can.
- Buy or make your own reusable shopping bags. Marrickville Metro has a sign in the car park that says they go through 2,600 disposable plastic bags per week & this is just one shopping mall.
- Choose to buy products that have less packaging.
- Buy free-range eggs.
- Reuse & recycle as much as you can.
- Make you own compost, as this diverts an enormous amount of organic waste from going to landfill.
- Don’t buy products that contain palm oil because these mono forests are causing massive loss to species dependent on forests, such as the orangutans, elephants, tigers, rhinos & birds.
- Buy sustainably resourced timber & don’t support those companies that log old growth forests.
- Plant something native in our garden & start up a verge garden if you can. Every bit of space we green up supports wildlife, even if it is only insects & reptiles.
- Don’t plant invasive species & never dump unwanted plants in or near bush land.
- Do not disturb logs & bush rocks, as these may be homes for wildlife.
- Don’t pick wildflowers, take away plants or vandalise trees.
- Desex your dogs & cats & keep your cats on your property & inside at night.
- Attach as reflector on your cat’s collar to alert birds & other smaller animals of their presence.
- Don’t dump pets or dispose of unwanted fish in the river or the toilet.
- Do not remove river oysters or dig for crabs in the Cooks River. You can buy bait cheaply at fishing shops.
- Don’t keep small fish caught in the river. Put them back to allow them to grow to adulthood.
- Take home all fishing line & string that can cause entanglements to birds & other creatures.
- Take home all rubbish & leave the environment as clean as you can.
I had the best & safest bike ride that I have ever experienced along Carrington Road in Marrickville South today. Previously using this road felt like I was risking my life, but as a main route, it meant a significant detour when I chose not to travel this way. Trying to cycle along the footpath was not really an option, as it was very difficult due to the many parked cars.
After a long campaign & many Council Meetings, Marrickville Council has created a separated cycleway. It is not yet totally finished, but it is open to cyclists & we are using it. I passed five bike riders in the three minutes I was riding along the route.
I thank Council for this initiative. It has certainly increased safety for cyclists & I think it will prove to be very popular once people learn about it.
As I was cycling along Carrington Road I noticed that Council’s recent work to replant the lovely & distinctive verge garden in front of New Directions looked like it had been vandalized. The verge garden was made up of French lavender & rosemary – totally appropriate for a company specializing in the production of botanicals.
Council recently planted 55 lavender & rosemary plants to recreate the look. However, today, there are 31 holes where plants used to be & only 24 plants remain. If they were stolen, it is really poor form. I wonder how Council can ever get ahead with streetscape improvements when this is the outcome.
The residents at the corner of Ewart Street & Ewart Lane Dulwich Hill have recently created a green wall. The house is very visible when you drive along Ewart Street towards Marrickville, so a green wall here is a very nice addition to the streetscape.
The green wall structure is made of pockets in geo-textile that has been fixed to the exterior wall. Each pocket is filled with soil or another growing medium & planted. It appears that they were having some problems with plants surviving in this hot location. However, the geraniums were doing very well & the vibrant red of their flowers is what initially attracted my eye.
My photos were taken around a month ago & it may have been replanted since then. With trial & error they will find what works & the community will get to benefit from the addition of beauty on what was a bare wall.
The residents have also planted mother-in-law’s tongue in the tiny area between the wall of the house & the kerb of Ewart Lane. These are extremely hardy & are a good choice for this location. Being hemmed in by the building wall & the kerb with the bitumen road beside will stop them spreading.
I was with a friend who was just as happy as I was to see this work. Any addition of green improves the streetscape. Adding the structure on the wall was a great idea & I am sure that this will become very attractive as the plants grow. Well done.