When Cities Grow Wild - Natural Landscaping from an Urban Planning Perspective

by John Ingram

4.4 Analysis and Observations

Although Table 4.0 would seem to indicate that there are more opportunities than barriers to the adoption of a natural landscaping strategy in HRM, such is not the case. The scale of the three attitudinal, informational and organizational constraints are so great that they outweigh all of the opportunities combined. Certainly the legislative statements and policy objectives outlined on both the table and in the previous section can all be used to speak towards the development of an urban landscape restoration program, but, as mentioned at the beginning of the previous section, all the policies and regulations in the world add up to nothing without an awareness of the reasons to use them and/or the motivation to enforce them. The conundrum in HRM, therefore, is this: there is sufficient enabling legislation and policy to support the adoption of a natural landscaping strategy, but insufficient political motivation or awareness to take advantage of the opportunities available.

As it stands, the development of a natural landscaping strategy in HRM would dovetail with many of the municipalitys existing environmental programs and larger. policy objectives. Additionally, the implementation of such a strategy would also help reduce present landscape maintenance budgets. For HRM to take advantage of the opportunities presented by natural landscaping, however, the municipality must first have an understanding of two things: first, the environmental problems created through its own conventional landscaping standards and those of its citizens; and second, the applications, potentials and process of natural landscaping as an alternative landscape management approach. So far, the level of awareness of both issues is such that it will be some time before a natural landscaping strategy becomes a reality in HRM.

Currently, the vegetated urban landscape and its healthy functioning is a very minor issue with HRMs public authorities, its ongoing horticultural maintenance unquestioned, its accumulating environmental, economic and societal debts unnoticed. Of course, HRM can hardly be singled out for neglecting its urban environment in such a manner. For the most part, the urban landscape has not yet emerged as a primary environmental issue in most other municipalities.

The flow chart  following  demonstrates the critical role that awareness of the process and larger goals of natural landscaping, political commitment to its development and environmental vision play in the adoption of a natural landscaping strategy. The table itself represents both a summary of the landscape restoration process experienced by the cities profiled and demonstrates the logical and necessary sequence of events that must occur for HRM to develop its own strategy. The darkly shaded square represents the current extent of the process in HRM.

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Table 4.1 The Pathway to a Sustainable Natural Landscaping Strategy

Although HRM is neither very far along the path to towards the development of its own natural landscaping strategy, nor in possession of the critical first elements, it is unlikely that the situation will persist for long. As section 3.0 demonstrated, natural landscaping and urban landscape restoration are on their way to becoming commonly accepted practices across North America, as the fiscal and environmental motivations for their application continue to mount. To put it bluntly, the concept, its applications and its larger environmental objectives make sense, and as more municipalities and individuals realize this, so too, will HRM. This is assuredly a long-term process, but it is nonetheless one that is already underway in jurisdictions across North America and one that will soon begin to unfold here in HRM.

In the meantime, however, the barriers to natural landscaping in HRM outweigh the opportunities. This is unfortunate, as it is in the public realm that the most immediate gains can be made. It is through the conversion of existing municipal open spaces that HRM could not only send a strong message to constituents about the place of nature in cities, but it could also achieve fairly rapid gains in the overall environmental health of the region. Currently, the municipality actively maintains a considerable inventory of conventional greenspaces which, with proper planning and public involvement, could easily accommodate some naturalization programs.

At the point where HRM determines to develop its own natural landscaping strategy, however, the municipality will find that it is already in possession of many the necessary legislative tools and guiding policy objectives. Despite the fact that the environmental awareness necessary for such a development is not yet a reality, the initial policy groundwork has been laid. For now, the most important task is encouraging or moving the municipality to make this discovery itself and to help it realize the many benefits that the development of a natural landscaping strategy promises. It is with these issues in mind that the following section outlines some prospective elements of what a natural landscaping strategy could be in HRM and offers some policy recommendations to facilitate the movement towards that process.

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All rights reserved. Updated May 16, 1999.

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