Archive for the ‘Public Spaces’ Category

Young Ash Tree

A  slight feeling of dread and sadness has been accompanying my walks down my street ever since  I learned about emerald ash borers (EABs).  These small green bugs are  originally from China, and are a blight facing all species of North American ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) They are infecting trees in my own city — Toronto –and in many places throughout Canada and the United States. How long will the beautiful, mature ash trees on my street live?

According to a City of Toronto staff member, because of the emerald ash borer, “Eighty to 95 per cent of the trees [in the city] are projected to die between 2015 and 2017, and from the point of infestation all of the trees will die somewhere between 10 and 12 years.”1

But recently I noticed some signs that gave me a sense of hope for the ash trees on my street, which, I would say, make up about 75% of the tree canopy on my street.  The City has identified 200 locations in Toronto where they will attempt to save ash  trees with a pesticide called TreeAzin.  The trees receiving these treatments are marked with metal tags.2 Most of the ash trees on my street bear metal tags, which I’m hoping signify treatment.

TreeAzin is the only treatment available for EAB and is a natural systemic insecticide made from seeds of the neem tree. It’s injected under the trees bark and kills EAB larvae. It’s quite expensive (up to $500 per tree) and needs to be repeated every two years indefinitely, so it’s not going to save all our ash trees. But it might keep death at bay for many of our trees until more effective control measures are being developed.

And hopefully it can save some of the trees on my street until that treatment is found. Otherwise, the walks on my street will become even sadder as the EAB devastates the beautiful ash trees.

Infected Tree Dying from EAB


1. The Star online. June 9, 2011. ‘Bug 1, Tree 0: Most of Toronto’s ash trees expected to die by 2017’. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1006004–bug-1-tree-0-most-of-toronto-s-ash-trees-expected-to-die-by-2017

2. ibid

Other Reading

City of Toronto web site:  http://www.toronto.ca/trees/eab.htm

Canadian Food Inspection Agency: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/plants/plant-protection/insects/emerald-ash-borer/faq/eng/1337355937903/1337356019017


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Passageway 1

Link to New Neighbourhood

Have you ever seen someone walk out of or into a place where you thought there was no way through?  These apparitions may be hints that there is secret neighbourhood passageway nearby.

A walk around a neighbourhood will often reveal a way to get to somewhere else that was hidden from your knowledge.

These secret passages are accessible only by foot or by bicycle.  They can take you up or down a set of stairs, underneath a railway, through a schoolyard or park, to different part of the neighbourhood.

These passages make a community more walkable as they create shortcuts where no motorized vehicles can go. Often there are no signs to indicate that there are links to other parts of the neighbourhood, so when you come upon them, it’s like a wonderful surprise discovery.

Passageway Beside Railway

Pedestrian Path Beside Railway

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Large Size Bin on Small Size Sidewalk

Normally my neighbourhood is very walkable. It’s one of the reasons I live here.  But then there are Tuesdays.

Tuesdays are garbage or recycling days on my street, when all those “monster” bins come out onto the sidewalk.

Now, I understand why the City introduced these bins (grey for garbage and blue for recycling) for better handling by the sanitation crew. But the City  should have considered that, when it comes to waste and recycling containers, one size does not fit all neighbourhoods.

The “monster” bins are great for streets with boulevards between the sidewalk and streets. On those streets, bins can be  placed out of the way of pedestrians; but on my street, the smallish sidewalks get taken over by the largeish bins.

But there are ways to overcome the problems — ways to reduce the conflict between waste and recycling bins and walkability.

Options for Placing Bins

Some front yards are better laid out for accommodating the bins that others.

Space for Bins in My Front Yard

Many yards have retaining walls beside the sidewalk, so those residents must put their bins on the sidewalk.  Other neighbours have a flat lawn or paved area in front where they can put the bins.

For example, my front yard has a flat area between the sidewalk and the retaining wall where I can stow my bins. This was how my house was when I bought it, so I can’t take credit for that foresight.

Other people on my street  have driveways they can put their bins on.  But sometimes, they put their bins on the sidewalk instead.

Other neighbours are more considerate. For instance, I noticed that one neighbour had put their bins at the front of the walkway to their house rather than on the public sidewalk.

The City’s Responsibility

No matter how considerate people are in placing their bins out of the way of pedestrians, it’s up to the sanitation crew to put them out of the way after they’re emptied.  This week, they were placed quite well — close to the edge of the sidewalk.  Sometimes, however, they are put smack dab in the middle of the walkway.  Then the sidewalk becomes impassable for those with walkers, wheelchairs,  strollers trundle buggies etc

My Grey Bin on the Sidewalk After Being  Emptied

Smaller is a Bit Less Ugly

Another way neighbours can take up less sidewalk space, is to create less garbage so that they can order a smaller grey bin from the City.  They’ll also save money, because a smaller bin costs less than a larger bin.

You can also get smaller recycling bins, although you are not charged for your recycling bins, no matter how large they are.

If a neighbour finds they don’t use their bin to full capacity, they can make a phone call to

have them switched to a smaller one.  Here’s a link to the City’s information about the bins.  http://www.toronto.ca/garbage/garbage.htms

Those who have small storage space for bins, but produce more waste than a smaller bin can contain, may ask the City for two smaller bins in place of a larger one. The city’s  web site says a staff person will inspect the property, but when I called to have this done and told them where I lived, they gave me two smaller ones, sight unseen.  They know that the huge bins are problematic for downtown neighbourhoods.

So those are my suggestions for reducing the conflict between the “monster” bins and pedestrians in my neighbourhood.  Sometimes there’s no way of getting around the problems, but with a little consideration by neighbours and City staff, the conflict can be reduced.

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