A couple of weeks ago I heard a loud, odd ‘squaaawk auwkkkk’ and looked up to see two huge Red tailed Hawks in the top branches of our big old Maple trees. That may not be unusual in some areas, but we live in the downtown core, near Barton and Mary streets, so I was quite impressed.
In fact, our house is the most ‘treed’ property in the neighbourhood, as a result folks often linger a little on the corner. If it’s a hot day, someone may chat with a neighbor or stand in the shade waiting for their kids to be dropped off by the schoolbus, stop to ask me about the garden, even give a little compliment.
Sadly though, I’m finding that as we need trees and greenspaces more, for mental health, for clean air, for shade, for habitat, we’re losing our front gardens at an alarming rate.
Look over there, a few majestic trees. Now, look over here and see paved front yards, cars pulled right up to the porch steps….but why?
When parking pads go in they leave very little space on typical downtown lots for a tree, or any kind of rainwater catchment. The current by-laws state that 50% should be permeable and or green but this is rarely the case. A walk around Beasley or the north end shows many properties don’t meet this requirement and more frustrating still, many have alleyways that could accommodate parking pads behind the house.
I actually love on-street parking, it creates a safety barrier for anyone walking along the sidewalk, it calms traffic because drivers need to slow down to pay attention, it allows for guest parking but most of all it usually means lots of trees on a street.
When a front parking pad goes in:
A curb cut with a sloped sidewalk is installed; this is a real pedestrian hazard for half the year due to snow and ice.
Up to 100% of the frontage becomes impermeable to rainwater. This puts a greater load on our now infamous sewage problem and contributes to more raw sewage flowing into the lake.
Any large canopy tree, to create shade or habitat, will never be planted.
Streets without trees are significantly hotter, have lower property values, are less pleasant to walk down and have increased crime stats due to fewer ‘eyes on the street’.
Everyone wants to live on a street with lots of trees but very few people seem to want to plant them. (I know because I’ve knocked on doors and asked people).
What can you do? Call or write to your councilor and express that you’d like to see a freeze on any and all new parking pad applications & please, please, pretty please plant a tree! I double dare you!
In fact, if you get a tree planted in your downtown front yard by the city, I’ll go a step further and do a free landscape sketch to add native perennials instead of lawn. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Candy Venni is a landscape designer, tree hugger and aspiring bird nerd.