downtown park

In October of 2015, I urged the Town Council to review and amend the plan presented by the consultant for the design of the first phase of Downtown Park and the South Academy Street renovation. This advice was not followed. The park was built and the street renovated according to the consultant's plan. The problems — problems which could have and should have been addressed and corrected in 2015 — are now manifest in the completed construction. I discuss the problems with the park below. Problems with the South Academy Street renovation will be discussed next week.

A picture is worth 1,000 words:

Dry Avenue

This is an image which in my opinion symbolizes the "Old Cary." When a sidewalk was to be installed on Dry Avenue years ago, environmental sensitivity was brought to bear on the design of that sidewalk. Today [September 11, 2017] the tree thrives. It is much larger. It shades the pedestrians and vehicles on the avenue. It shades the house in front of which it stands, saving the owners some not inconsequential part of their monthly cooling bills in Cary's six-month summers. It burbles the wind in the cooler months, reducing wind-chill effect and thus also reducing the cost of energy to heat the home. It filters particulate matter from vehicles' exhaust. It extracts large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, and a by-product of that extraction is the production of life-sustaining oxygen. It soaks up rainwater and pumps it up to its leaves, which in turn release that water as a fine mist, furthering cooling the area. The rainwater so used is kept from becoming runoff, with its attendant ills.

And here is the "New Cary." Images #1 and 2 show a beautiful tree, which I think was an oak, prominently to the left of the telephone pole. The third image shows that the tree has been chopped down in order to make room for the marginally-wider sidewalk.

[Please click or tap to enlarge an image.]

October, 2007
April, 2015
March, 2016

How nice it would have been if SOMEONE had said, "Please don't chop down that tree." I doubt ANYONE would complain about having to alter his or her course a few feet while walking along the sidewalk to avoid the tree. And a section of the park would have been usable and enjoyble a few hours earlier into the afternoon if the tree had been allowed to remain to shade that southwest corner of the park. And as it stands now, with NO trees to shade the park from the southeast and south until about 2:00 pm in summer afternoons, and NO trees currently planted that will ever provide any meaningful shade, the park is already in its environmental adulthood, and will not improve with age.

The woman in this video was kind enough to share her thoughts on the park. I do not know her, not even her name [her dog's name is Maverick], and had not met her before this day in the park. It was she who first broached the issue of no trees for shade, and when asked if I could record her thoughts for use in my campaign, she kindly consented. The video is a first [and only] take, shot on a cell phone, and runs from beginning to end without editing.

I propose that an office be created in the Town's structure that will concern itself with the environmental aspects of all that the Town undertakes. Let us use this photograph, and several that follow, to illustrate how a review by that office of Town plans for the park might have resulted in a more sustainable construction. Here is a picture taken in September, 2017 in the Downtown Park, facing south toward the Arts Center:

Downtown Park

Problems shown in the picture:

  • Brick and concrete are impervious.
  • Surrounds around unpaved ground extend upward about four inches, effectively insuring that ground will not absorb any more rainfall than what falls directly on it.
  • The giant blackjack oak [which was listed on the Wake County Capital Trees Program until that program was de-funded] standing next to the Arts Center is tall, but too far away from the park to be able to cast its shadow over it.
  • The huge stone pedestals and the metal objects mounted on them are nice. But it would have been infinitely more environmentally sensitive to plant two fast-growing hardwood trees in those places, in order to shade the park visitors in a few years, absorb pollution, absorb stormwater, produce oxygen . . . .
  • The umbrella is a nice touch, but the problem is that it will be needed not for just a few years, but forever.

Below: Raindrops unimpeded by tree leaves and branches strike the ground at their terminal velocity, loosening the soil. Rain continuing more than 15 or 20 minutes begins the erosion of land not anchored by tree roots. Also, ground above this area, if paved with impervious material, will channel water over this unprotected ground, increasing the rate of flow and, concomitantly, the rate of erosion.

Hillside erosion

More images of erosion in Downtown Park:

[Please click or tap to enlarge an image.]

erosion erosion
erosion erosion

Mystery: WHY were these trees [below] planted at all? WHY were they planted in these places? Why were they planted in violation of the Community Appearance Manual? Who is responsible for their replacement — the entity that planted them or the taxpayers of Cary? — They have NO CHANCE of survival for more than a few years. Several of the trees are already dead. Not one of them will EVER contribute to the quality of life for Cary residents.

[Please click or tap to enlarge an image.]

why planted here why planted here
why planted here why planted here
why planted here why planted here


I propose that an office be created in the Town of Cary that reviews the actions that the Town will take. Had that office been established prior to the Downtown Park planning and construction, and had it reviewed plans for the park for environmental sensitivity, it would have paid for itself for a year by the money it would have saved the Town in just this one project. The Town website describes Downtown Park as the Cary's "crown jewel." If such is the case, this jewel must be taken from its setting, its facets recut, and the whole must be polished before it is reset.

The Town is readying for the planning of Phase Two of Downtown Park. Let us insure we learn from Phase One.

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Objective #1

That the Town of Cary establish an office whose head reports directly to the Town Manager, dedicated solely to addressing environmental issues. The office will consist of two parts. One part will be a Skunk Works, a group given a high degree of autonomy and charged with devising ways that the Town can move rapidly towards sustainability. The second will be an inspection unit charged with ensuring compliance with sustainability measures undertaken by the Town.

Objective #2

That the Town of Cary establish within its limits a combination botanical garden, arboretum, and tree nursery.

Objective #3

That within the next decade, the Town of Cary properly plant one million additional trees within its borders and nurture them correctly.

Objective #4

That the Town of Cary adopt a long-lived and beautiful noble hardwood tree as its Official Tree.

Objective #5

That the Town of Cary re-start the now-defunct Wake County Champion and Notable Tree List, and that it be administered by volunteers using a donated program and server space.