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:
The 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.
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?”.