Somerset Planters being installed (finally)

After years of lobbying, approvals, bureaucratic fixes, and engineering and contractual delays, the tree planters along Somerset viaduct are finally being installed. The idea is that these will enhance the pedestrian environment, knitting the communities of Dalhousie and Hintonburg together. The current elevated roadway is windswept and feels isolated.

Perhaps more importantly, the precedent has been set for significant plantings of trees where there is no underlying dirt or “room” for tree roots. These may be the first irrigated planters the city has installed; they use water from the Plant Rec Centre building to automatically water the trees.

Let the pictures tell the story:

europe 2013 1994The planters have pre-cast concrete sides and metal end pieces. The concrete is bolted to the concrete walkway, irrigation pipes are drawn up from under the walkway, the planter is lined with an insulation material, geotextile, and filled with topsoil.

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The planters will be topped with some sort of ground cover shrubs and mulch chips.

The Somerset planters demonstrate that community-based idea generation and ongoing pressure in the face of adversity can result in a better city environment. The City engineers, Councillor, and landscape consultants deserve a lot of praise for their willingness to push boundaries and do something not done before. This is a much larger project than the planters previously installed along Isabella Street near the Pretoria bridge.

With this project as an example, it should be easier to get other installations of raised planters that can humanize an over-trafficked or hostile pedestrian location. It also helps to be able to point to a precedent and ask “if it works over there, why can’t we have it here?”.


9 thoughts on “Somerset Planters being installed (finally)

  1. Once the trees are bigger what will prevent the trees from toppling over? Are there crevices in the inside planter walls where the tree roots can grab ahold of the planter walls or are they smooth? If they are smooth I would be worried that once the trees get bigger a strong wind will topple the tree and the root ball will pop right out.

    1. Also, won’t the trees’ growth potential be seriously limited by the lack of soil depth? Why did they opt for full blown trees vs tall growing shrubs/bushes?

  2. These look great, especially now that the trees are in. I do worry that these might cause problems in the winter. Is there enough room between the planters for the sidewalk snow? Also now that the sidewalk will no longer be available as an overflow for street snow [ 🙂 ], where will it go?
    the sad truth is that if this doesn’t work for motorists, it is not likely to be copied elsewhere in the city 🙁

  3. Matthew: there is at least 5′ between the planters and the viaduct railing for snow plows…and some of the sidewalk snow will simply be shoved over the side of the viaduct under the bottom rung of the railing, same as now. Over the OTrain, where boards are put up in the winter along the railing, there are no planters … Some will gather between the planters, and there is actually quite a lot of space between them. As for the street side, the city snow crews signed off on the design — maybe they intend to use the bike lane for snow storage??

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