A “MICRO-forest” pilot project has been proposed for an area of open space in Downer.
Landscape architect Edwina Robinson, founder of social enterprise The Climate Factory, is leading the charge and says that urban micro-forests, dense pockets of vegetation that cool the local landscape, are also important in terms of creating habitat and enhancing community.
“We chose this particular site because it’s like a little park overlooked by houses, and we felt it could become a real neighbourhood precinct,” she says.
“It’s a fairly open space with some play equipment, but there’s a lot of weeds, and the ground is dry and compacted. There are some eucalypts and deciduous trees. We want to help activate the space, make it usable, pleasant and safe.”
Edwina is aiming to generate funds through the crowdfunding platform StartSomeGood.
“We shouldn’t rely on the government to fund public open spaces, and parts of our community are affluent. Let’s step up and see what we can do,” she says.
“I tend to think local residents will feel more ownership if they’re involved from the start.
“Hopefully, having a carer group for the site moving forward will create more cohesion in the community and people will get to know each other more.”
The one-hectare site, located between Cole Street and Cadell Street in Downer, would feature fire-resistant trees, shrubs and ground cover.
Once funding is secured, Edwina says work would begin in autumn.
“There will be a community engagement process to create a master plan for the whole site, exploring how it’s used and how people move through it,” she says.
“We’ll be looking at ways to cool the area, through planting trees with a decent canopy and creating layers of understory. Sourcing climate-ready trees that will cope with hotter, drier conditions is crucial.
“In terms of planting, we’ll be putting in tube stock as it outperforms anything bigger very quickly, but also looking at trees from a range of age categories so they will live for different lengths of time.”
Edwina, who also works part-time as executive officer of SEE-Change, started The Climate Factory earlier this year with an ultimate goal of planting 100,000 trees and shrubs in urban micro-forests by 2025.
“After experiencing the hot January this year, which was six degrees above average, I thought, I’ve got to do something,” Edwina says.
“Trees cool the ground beneath them – under a tree canopy the ground can be up to 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding area. We need these nature spaces, they’re like an oasis in the city.”
The Downer micro-forest is The Climate Factory’s first public project, and the group is also working on a small micro-forest in a private front garden nearby, which Edwina says will help to create wildlife corridors.
Through her work at SEE-Change, Edwina has recently initiated a birdscaping project to encourage pollinators and small threatened birds in O’Connor, overseeing the grant and funding process, and implementation.
“Our aim is to give a sense of hope that we can all be involved, and do something to help,” she says.
The crowd funder will be launched on Wednesday October 16, through StartSomeGood.