Starling: Ewing Trees Provide Many Benefits

August 6, 2014

trees ewing street bermuda[Opinion column written by Jonathan Starling]

It was heartening to see that some residents of Ewing Street, along with the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce [BEST], took the initiative to defend the street’s trees yesterday [Aug 5].

While it’s true the City of Hamilton did advertise their imminent removal, this advertisement ran in the immediate run-up to Cup Match. As such, the arrival of work crews today no doubt caused alarm amongst residents and activists.

It’s clear that there’s been a fundamental breakdown in communication between the City and its key stakeholders, primarily the residents, but also civil society actors such as BEST. I understand the City has a Residential Advisory Committee, which should have functioned to prevent just such a breakdown, so there is some concern that this committee may need further strengthened.

Without having access to either the City’s plans for the street or the alternative proposed by the residents and BEST it’s hard to select between the two – although the potential risk to the mature trees in question, along with the median strip, seems unnecessary and short sighted to me.

The ecosystem services of green infrastructure such as street trees is increasingly being recognised within the planning and built environment literature, with properly maintained street trees having a wide range of benefits for neighbourhoods, including:

  • Providing shade
  • Breaking up the monotony of the ‘concrete jungle’
  • Providing wind breaks
  • Providing biodiversity within urban areas
  • Contributing to a sense of place
  • Improving property values
  • Improving retail experiences
  • Discouraging crime
  • Reducing incidents of noise pollution
  • Reducing levels of air pollution
  • Reducing levels of stress hormones
  • Encouraging healing and recovery
  • Aesthetic values
  • Sustainable urban drainage

It has to be stressed that the above is not news to the City of Hamilton.

In their February, 2012 edition of The Cityzen [PDF], such aspects were acknowledged in an article on the City’s tree-planting and rejuvenation scheme. And in comments to the media, also in February 2012, much of the above was also noted, along with a commitment to focus on planting native and endemic trees, plus fruit trees, throughout the City as part of this scheme.

To date, however, the City has not made their tree-planting strategy available to the public, or provided regular updates concerning its progress.

I believe the City could do much to allay concerns about the loss of city trees by taking a more pro-active approach in releasing their strategy and progress reports.

I would also hope that the next City of Hamilton plan, which I understand is currently being developed, places a stronger emphasis on expanding and protecting the City’s green infrastructure.

A literally ‘green’ city has multiple benefits, for residents, workers and visitors alike, as well as for businesses.

There is a lot of scope for improving the city in terms of expanded tree-planting and the development of more green-spaces, particularly in the northern and eastern parts of the City – with the bulk of green-spaces currently concentrated in the west and south of the City, away from most residents.

The October 2013 announcement of a new park to be created at Dundonald and Court is thus to be welcomed, but more needs to be done.

I hope that the actions of Ewing Street Residents and BEST not only lead to a better situation for Ewing Street, but also help raise awareness about the role of street trees throughout the City, as well as the condition of our individual neighbourhoods.

Hopefully their actions – along with the welcome intervention of Walton Brown, the area MP – will bear fruit and set an example for us all about the importance of active participation in improving our neighbourhoods and environment.

And hopefully this incident will also encourage City Hall to do more in the way of informing the public on their urban tree plans and status, and on better engagement with key stakeholders going forward.

- Jonathan Starling

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Category: All, Environment, News

Comments (16)

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  1. Come Correct says:

    Just wondering but how do trees discourage crime?

    • J Starling says:

      There’s different theories.

      Partly it’s the effect on reducing stress hormones – which apart from health benefits has also been seen to reduce overall aggression.

      One particular theory is that well maintained trees and greenspace ‘signal’ the area is well maintained and thus supervised, in effect.

      Badly maintained areas, and shrubs, send the opposite signal as well as provide cover for crime. So the key is well maintained trees and greenspaces.

      I can direct you to some relevant literature if you like.

      • micro says:

        That’s a load of bollocks mostly

        • PBanks says:

          I can see it making sense if the trees are part and parcel of a nice looking, clean, well-lit neighborhood. You’d probably feel safer walking through there instead of a dingy, dark, run-down looking place.

        • Vascola says:

          Spot on Micro, I’m astonished you have 10 dislikes. Are there 10 hippies in Bermuda?

      • Tasha says:

        LOL, what is starling talking about, if anything, trees are where criminals can hide behind.. mind you, I want the trees to stay, but that theorie of reducing crime is just nonsense.

        • do your research says:

          Google the broken window effect and figure it out for your self. just because you dont understand does not mean that it is not real.

        • Vascola says:

          Haaaaaaa, trees are where criminals hide behind…that’s brilliant. With their swag bags obviously.

      • Come Correct says:

        I get it now, was just curious.

  2. frank says:

    look at the street a fire truck can not pass cars park on both sides
    we have more important things to worry about

    • Samuel L. Jackson says:

      So the problem is parked cars not the trees. Make the street one way with parking on one side leaving the other side clear for traffic.

  3. lizard says:

    Starling need help!! Mawi is open.

    • Kim Smith says:

      Lizard, you may not agree with the author of this piece but that doesn’t justify taking pot shots at him. How about articulating how you see it. That would be of such much more value.

  4. Hurricane says:

    I have to wonder how many of the cars parked there daily belong to the residents. I’d like to see no parking on the street and save the trees (right where they are). Would those residents that park there be singing a different song then ,Just asking!

  5. Common Sense says:

    This is a very reasonable and well thought out article by Mr. Starling.

    It is worth noting that the two newest greenspace developments in the City are the small park between Victoria Street and Brunswick Street next to the Society for the Blind, and the beautiful park off Parsons Road that replaced a rubbish tip when it was privately owned. I believe this property, including an additional piece of land just outside the City limits, was purchased by the previous COH administration specifically to provide more greenspace in north Hamilton.

    It seems ironic that the present COH administration, which was elected under rules that removed all voting rights to anyone other than City residents most of whom live in north Hamilton, are now doing their utmost to remove greenery despite the fact that the residents of Ewing Street (the key stakeholders) have not been consulted about the plan, are admanetly opposed to their removal, and have even offered their own ideas on how to improve the street on which they live.

  6. Residential Advisory Committee says:

    Mr. Starling, the City presented their plans to the Residential Advisory Committee and residents many months ago on two or more occassions. Many of the protesters were in attendance. The residents are alarmed because the work is obviously moving forward without serious consideration given to the residents’ alternate plan – which were drawn by a architect with an office in North Hamilton.