The Queensway Forest

One of the recommendations in the New Centretown Plan currently doing the rounds, is for a densely planted urban forest along the banks of the Queensway. Currently, there are some unpretty barren spots:

And even where there is a bit more planting, it is sparse:

Compare that with the lush vegetation a bit further west, along Edgar Street:

A couple of observations: the lush growth shown above does not look “planned” or “planted” by landscape architects. I saw no evidence of retaining walls, gabions, well spaced hardwoods, scenic selection of trees … no, they just appear to have grown there all by themselves. Aided, no doubt, by the fortuitous presence of a chain link fence that keeps out the do-gooders, the weed snippers, and city pruners. And this is on a north-facing slope too. Very cheap to boot: just abandon the space.

Another major factor that helps is the high sound barrier at the top of the slope, that keeps down the poisonous salt spray. If you squint carefully, and maybe push a bit of the brush aside in the pictures below, you can just make out the sound barrier:

Now all that lushness on the north side is in marked contrast to the south side, along Young, where there is no fence, and the slope is “maintained” by the City or MTO:

By crossing under the Qway at Fairmont, you can see the Edgar streetscape on the north side, and Young streetscape on the south. I know which version of the urban landscape I prefer.

So, could we get something lush and green along those barren Qway slopes?

 Would it actually be possible to let nature do the landscaping … without a million dollar landscaping concept, functional and detailed design plans by consultants? Without a few million dollars of retaining walls, transition zones, and armoured slopes? Without access roads for tractors and backhoes? Without several more million dollars of delicate nursery stock that would promptly die?

I do think we would need a higher noise barrier along the Qway, to keep out the salt spray and crap. Since the barrier is low there to permit “tourists” their view of the downtown and gasp — wow ! — Parliament in the far distance, we might need to make a short length of the Queensway barrier out of glass (I have seen this done in many places in Europe, and once in Vancouver…). The Catherine-side fence should be three feet of concrete jersey barrier (to keep out salt spray, and misdirected cars) topped with four feet of chainlink.

Then … do nothing. Just wait. Watch. Let nature regenerate a green strip through the downtown.





Naaah. Can’t you just hear the city or MTO saying great idea, we can make it just a bit better by a)hiring consultants [insert excuse here], b) helping mother nature by planting these trees or shrubs … c) helping it along by installing this irrigation system, d) this access road to pick up garbage and maintain the irrigation e) prevent erosion by building these nifty neat walls, and f) getting that budget back up to a few dozen million dollars, at which point the whole plan gets postponed as too expensive.

Better a good plan not done that a basic plan done “almost free”.

6 thoughts on “The Queensway Forest

  1. Good idea! Roadsides are mainly ugly anywhere outside of the city core, and allowing trees to grow naturally, as well as bushes and shrubs from bird droppings, would probably be a big improvement. WIld flowers and tiger lilies can easily be encouraged to grow and spread like wildfire.

  2. The city does do road side naturalization projects (eg: which is your best bet for what you are aiming at.

    I agree there is no hope of having the city just letting nature take its course. They are afraid that someone will complain about the unsightly weeds. I think we need more people like you complaining about the “unisghtly” featureless roadsides. Even better we need people to complain when they cut down the lovely field of wildflowers that is the intermediate stage between a lawn and a forest.

    One key problem is that an area that is unused like that might be a place for people to dump garbage. Another problem is that it might grow up as just a bunch of buckthorn bushes. Perhaps what might work is if there were volunteer woodlot stewards for these roadside areas. They could regularly clear out the garbage and hack back the invasive species. Even a bit of forest needs some tending in the city.

  3. The only way I’d tinker with nature is to give some conifers a head start. When I lived in the Golden Triangle years ago, the Queensway-sourced noise difference between summer (foliated) and winter (exfoliated) was huge. Some evergreens would help mitigate the traffic noise even in the shoulder seasons for openwindowsleeping.

  4. A few years ago the late Craig Huff, then the City’s chief forester, noted that almost all the trees populating the Beaver Barracks site (prior to re-development by CCOC) were “volunteers”. It was quite a stand really, perhaps even a bit detrimental to the adjacent community gardeners looking for sunlight on their tomatos. Credit to CCOC, though, for arranging that the more mature trees be lumbered for future use and the smaller trees be re-cycled for wood-burning pellets

  5. During the discussion on the EA for the Prince of Wales widening, local community groups found a new type of sound barrier material that’s transparent. That could be used here.

    I have heard from people living in that area that they would like higher sound barriers.

    But before pushing this idea, perhaps you should ask the people currently living on Young Street? Or see how it will affect the new developments happening in that area, close to the Queensway?

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