Several events over the last year got me thinking in a deeper way about Georgetown’s green spaces, especially its trees. It began with conceptualizing a 5 Year Strategic Plan for Constituency 14 which included the preservation of our green spaces and our trees. This was eclipsed by Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan and central government’s tree planting programme. And sadly, more recently, my thoughts turned to the brutality and ecological destruction of our green spaces in the city, the Bel Air Park Playground and the possibility of similar actions on the Farnum Playground.
The Botanical Gardens has a catalogue of over two hundred, eighty-eight plants, including numerous trees. My research yielded no such record for the city proper. At the city level, it is evident that we don’t have an appreciation for what Smart Cities Dive’s online article, ‘Two New Tools for Planning a Healthy Urban Canopy’ points out, “Trees are a vital part of urban communities, providing social, environmental and economic benefits”.
There used to be a great tree in Georgetown where the monument to the conservation of sea turtles now stands in the vicinity of Pegasus Hotel; at least two huge trees fell on Main Street over the last year and I remember another on Merriman Mall.
Additionally, there used to be trees, among other places, around Bounty Supermarket on Orange Walk and Regent Street. After the store was rebuilt the trees disappeared. And likewise, many home builders rid parapets of trees seeing them as obstructions, and with a chainsaw or cutlass wipe out whole ecosystems. In Constituency 14 we use to have eucalyptus trees lining Aubrey Barker Road. Now, most are gone.
Similarly, last year I came across a post on Facebook by the New Amsterdam Mayor and Town Council. The post read, “Why was the decades old tree in Esplanade Park cut down?” It went on to state, “the tree was infested with bees, and sessions at the High Court and at the All Saints’ Primary School were frequently interrupted when the insects became agitated. Athletes who use the Park on a daily basis were also affected.” The M&TC granted permission to the Region 6 RDC to cut down the tree since hives were discovered in its hollow trunk.
It was such a noble gesture by the municipality to think of the welfare of its citizens but I keep wondering, in the delicate ecological balance that is life, if more could not have been done to save the tree.
The vital importance of trees is outlined in another digital article, ‘How Climate Benefits from Trees Scale with Cities’. It informs us, “Trees influence meteorological and climatic effects at all scales of a city, from pocket parks to entire neighbourhoods. However, while research has been done on the effect of tree canopies on urban environments, in general, we are only now beginning to understand how urban canopies affect climate at all scales of the city – from an individual building to a street, park, overall pattern of land use and finally, the city as a whole.”
It continues, “This is the perspective taken in a recent paper by T.R. Oke titled, ‘The Micrometeorology of the Urban Forest,’ where he examines the ability of the urban forest to create microclimates that directly affect the residents of a city and the spaces they inhabit. Oke argues that the microclimate created by street trees is imperative to good urban design. But in order to implement it in our designs, we need to better understand the implications of scale.”
We have to save our city from callous hands, people who pay only lip service to government’s green agenda and who wouldn’t think twice about razing an urban forest to needlessly build a house or two for themselves. God save us, and help us save our green spaces.
Sherod Avery Duncan