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”.