Increasingly hot summers have seen some councils developing cooling strategies for their urban areas.
Because of the urban heat island effect, cities become much hotter than surrounding rural areas because of factors such as pollution, building density and extensive hard dark surfaces (buildings and asphalt roads) which absorb heat. Traffic, industry and electricity usage also contribute to increased urban temperatures which may be from two to ten degrees higher than in surrounding rural areas.
While the urban heat island effect is a major problem in cities, it also affects smaller urban areas.
One of the effective cooling strategies adopted by many councils is increasing street canopy cover with good shade trees.
Grafton is particularly fortunate with the street trees in its older sections – a result of the foresight of early community leaders.
The variable situation in Prince Street, Grafton's main street.
Well-established trees in some parts of the street provide both good shade and a pleasant outlook. The two photos below show the tree cover on the western side of both the Prince Street - Victoria Street and the Prince Street-Fitzroy Street intersections.
In its newer street plantings in Grafton’s main street Clarence Valley Council has shown an indifference to any commitment to green-scaping and provision of shade trees to reduce the heat island effect. The palms planted at the pedestrian crossings between Fitzroy and Pound Streets provide negligible shade.
And shady lillypillies were replaced with low shrubs on both sides of the informal crossing near Ray White between Fitzroy and Victoria Streets.
This is a busy part of town which particularly needs
shade because of pedestrian usage and heating resulting from traffic flow.
The situation in newer parts of Grafton
In most of the newer areas streets are narrower and so are verges (“nature strips”) which provide no space for reasonably-sized shade trees. And this opportunity is further restricted by the fact that services such as power and water are generally located underground along these narrow verges. In addition, block sizes in new developments are generally smaller and the current tendency to build large dwellings on them leaves little garden space for planting shade trees within the block.
Obviously this ‘modern’ problem is not restricted to
Grafton or to new developments in the Clarence Valley.
As the climate continues to warm, Councils like Clarence Valley Council will be expected to provide a better solution for the heat island effect than palms and low shrubs as well as implementing changes to developments to ensure that verges or nature strips are wide enough to allow planting of reasonably sized shade trees in residential areas.