I have been involved in a discussion lately about trees in Geneva – are there enough? Are they being cut down when they shouldn’t be? This will sound familiar to anybody living in Adelaide, but especially in my local area, where public trees are such an important part of the character of the neighbourhood.
My intuitive thought, based on living in both places, is that Geneva is a bit of a concrete jungle, but that it has magnificent parks. Unley, in contrast, has lovely street tree settings, but its public green areas are dire. They have little shade, no aesthetic aspect whatsoever. They are often totally utilitarian, there for sport and dogs. Anybody wanting a pleasurable experience of sitting in a beautiful green place need not apply.
Indeed, the facts bear this up. Geneva, being a typical medium density city, has an area of about 16 square kms with a population of 200K. The City of Unley has about 39K population in an area of 14 sq kms. Unley has 2728 persons/sq km, while Geneva has 12,000/sq km. Geneva has 40,000 public trees, whilst Unley has only 26,000.
However, the makeup of where those trees are, is incredibly different in the two areas and I think each could learn from the other. Geneva’s public trees are mostly in parks. Unley Council must do something about this. It’s such a shame that your green areas are the very opposite of the pleasing areas they should be. On the other hand, Unley has a huge number of street trees compared with Geneva: about 23,000 compared with 5,000 in Geneva. Thus the street scenes are all lovely in Unley – shady and verdant and utterly vital to making this part of Adelaide what it is.
This is not to suggest that the residents of the City of Unley have no obligations. We should all have as many trees as possible on our own property, but it all goes together. The beautiful gardens of the area are visually enhanced by the street trees. One has only to compare areas with nice gardens – eg the beach suburbs around Somerton Park – and no (or stunted) street trees to see the striking difference. The street trees give a continuity that makes the area one big garden. Maybe that explains why I often feel like I’m walking in the country when I’m walking down my street in Clarence Park.
Which is why it’s so disappointing to hear the idea expounded in Unley that trees on footpaths should be cut down so that people in wheel chairs can cruise around enjoying the gardens of the area – it’s their ‘right’. But take away the street trees and you’ve taken away a lot of the impact of the gardens too. They are symbiotic. And without the trees, there is not the shade which is crucial to walking around the area. This is not an option. In fact, noting that the Unley Council has put the occasional bench on streets in the area with signs saying that these are old people friendly, the very idea that benches have any purpose at all without being in shade is hard to understand. Ditto, one might add, for the CBD, where along North Terrace etc public seating places are rarely put where they can be used in summer/sun.
Thinking of my own back yard, something like 15M x 3M, I’m amazed at how many trees one can have in a small area and the fabulous visual, psychological and practical impact. The Unley Council should be a driving force in stepping up the process of increasing green tree coverage of public spaces, both streets and parks, and the local residents should be doing everything they can to facilitate and extend this into their private space. We should, in short, be a leader in making green matter.