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 A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized

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PostSubject: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 2:23 am

What follows is copied directly from a post I put up a few weeks ago on politics.ie. I've been invited by a user of this board to reproduce it here.

First, take a look at this photo of a section of the M8 linked to here: http://www.skeheenarinky.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pid=236&fullsize=1

Dear Greens and other readers,

I am one of the few people, it seems, who has a paradoxical interest in both the development of Ireland's interurban motorway network AND in enlarging Ireland's broadleaf woodland coverage. Over the past few months I have seen an opportunity to exploit the verges of many of these new roads to plant large swathes of native trees.

Let me explain, taking the recently-opened 37km Cashel to Mitchelstown M8 motorway through Tipperary as an example. Let me first direct you here to this short two-page thread on boards.ie for photos of some of the wasted land associated with this road: New motorway verge maintenance & planting: non existent! - boards.ie , especially posts #25 and #26. These images highlight but a tiny percentage of the unused land on the route. They were taken at the northern end of the scheme, between Cashel and New Inn. South of Cahir, the land wastage is even more pronounced. On straigher sections of the route between Cahir and Mitchelstown the road is not banked by steep verges at all; rather, the sides of the road are broad and flat, and there is a corridor some 20m in width and many kilometers long running the whole length of the M8, totally unused, that would be ideal for tree planting.

I have contacted the NRA about what I regard as the lack of proper landscaping accompanying these schemes. The Authority commented that their new planting policy is designed to reflect the habitat through which the road runs. In the case of the M8, for example, this is grassland, and so the NRA has not planted trees in great numbers in order to blend the route into the fields that flank the road. That is the theory anyway. Obviously the NRA has not considered that Ireland's grasslands are neat and green because they are grazed; obvious too is the fact that the roadsides will not be similarly grazed, so that consequently the grass sown thereon will grow unchecked, turn brown, and become weedy. Hence you get the horrible eyesores highlighted in my photos that blight what should be amongst the most verdant countryside in Ireland.

My proposal is quite simple, cheap, and would involve marshalling schools and local communities. It is this:
In areas where planting is suitable, gather native seed (acorns, ash keys, hazel and larch cones, etc.) and get school children to plant them in pots. In time these would then be planted along suitable parts of the motorway.

The areas that need tree cover most are spaces adjacent to overbridges (as you can see from my pictures); by grade seperated junctions; and along wide, flat areas of roadside where the trees will not fall onto the road. The trees would have many benefits, and, if correctly chosen and situated, would require no maintenance.

I am very interested in making this happen. It would be a project similar, in some respects, to the Millenium Forests enterprise. I'm coming to the Green Party for advice and support, and for help in making this happen. I know that the Greens are not fans of roads, and that is fine. You don't need to be. All I'm asking is for the help of the Green Party, a party of government, to turn this environmental handful of lemons into lemonade.

Things that need to happen include:
- getting government backing, even if this is just verbal support;
- getting the NRA to allow planting to take place and getting them involved
- getting town councils, local authorities, as well as schools and Boards of Management involved
- getting Coillte and the Tree Council involved (for seeds, planting demonstrations etc)

This has the potential to do several things. As well as having obvious environmental benefits, it would allow the Greens, the government and the NRA to appear to be environmentally proactive in a tangiable, practical way. It would also do a lot to educate kids about trees and ecology, and to get communities involved in a national programme of afforestation, rekindling in the process a spirit of volunteerism.
I look forward to your replies. If anyone would like to contact me directly please PM me.

Thanks for reading.


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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 2:30 am

Thanks Furet. Your a late but welcome arrival. Smile I'm sure you'll get some response to that here tomorrow, but I think most of our members are in their roosts by now.

Just to get started though, motorway planting has been some of the best planting we've had in the last ten years, plenty of wild flower planting too. I noticed that with different forms of contract that have come in, there has been much less flexibility.

I haven't come across what you are talking about in terms of unplanted areas. I wonder were they shown as unplanted in the original planning documents?
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 2:45 am

Do you know if the road building contract excludes or includes the intial planting of the roadsides ? I wonder how our practice here compares with roads built elsewhere in Europe. The Cashel - Cullahill portion was finished waay too quickly. They'll put up the toll gate a lot quicker than the trees though, don't you worry but trees might be a better asset in the long run.

As someone said half jokingly on boards just there, "the problem in this country is bad planting".

Welcome to Machine Nation furet.
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:01 am

Auditor #9 wrote:
Do you know if the road building contract excludes or includes the intial planting of the roadsides ? I wonder how our practice here compares with roads built elsewhere in Europe. The Cashel - Cullahill portion was finished waay too quickly. They'll put up the toll gate a lot quicker than the trees though, don't you worry but trees might be a better asset in the long run.

As someone said half jokingly on boards just there, "the problem in this country is bad planting".

Welcome to Machine Nation furet.

Planting is shown in the EIS for the project, and is part of the contract. Its difficult to get them to add anything once they have started because they are working to a price. They plant a lot of whips, that look unimpressive when they go in but which can be very successful in the medium and long term.
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:05 am

Quote :
My proposal is quite simple, cheap, and would involve marshalling schools and local communities. It is this:
In areas where planting is suitable, gather native seed (acorns, ash keys, hazel and larch cones, etc.) and get school children to plant them in pots. In time these would then be planted along suitable parts of the motorway.

The areas that need tree cover most are spaces adjacent to overbridges (as you can see from my pictures); by grade seperated junctions; and along wide, flat areas of roadside where the trees will not fall onto the road. The trees would have many benefits, and, if correctly chosen and situated, would require no maintenance.

This is an interesting suggestion. We had a suggestion here tonight from Arete, more general, that members might take on some local issues (on the localism thread). If you dont get any hop out of the NRA, finding a local environmental group that was interested in pushing this through in their own area might work.

There would be safety and insurance issues, but nothing that couldn't be dealt with.

Any chance of putting some of your photos up, Furet?
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:15 am

The photos I'm specifically referring to relate to the Cashel to Mitchelstown M8 project and can be seen here: http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showpost.php?p=57177878&postcount=25

Regarding the Cashel to Cullahill scheme, that stretch appears to be much better landscaped than what's opened so far.
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:20 am

Furet wrote:
The photos I'm specifically referring to relate to the Cashel to Mitchelstown M8 project and can be seen here: http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showpost.php?p=57177878&postcount=25

Regarding the Cashel to Cullahill scheme, that stretch appears to be much better landscaped than what's opened so far.



What a coincidence, I drove that road on Thursday last. I have copies of the EIS planting somewhere too. There certainly were proposals for quite a lot of broadleaf planting. Are there strucural or visibility reasons why they dont plant right up to the bridges ?
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:21 am

cactus flower wrote:
I haven't come across what you are talking about in terms of unplanted areas. I wonder were they shown as unplanted in the original planning documents?

The EIS, which contained detailed drawings, was available on the South Tipperary County Council's website up until about a month ago, but I can't access it now. As far as I know, the landscape architect's drawings did include plenty of planting. Unfortunately, this hasn't materialised along large tracts of the scheme. From what I've heard, the the new M9 Carlow bypass is similarly bare.
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:23 am

Furet wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
I haven't come across what you are talking about in terms of unplanted areas. I wonder were they shown as unplanted in the original planning documents?

The EIS, which contained detailed drawings, was available on the South Tipperary County Council's website up until about a month ago, but I can't access it now. As far as I know, the landscape architect's drawings did include plenty of planting. Unfortunately, this hasn't materialised along large tracts of the scheme. From what I've heard, the the new M9 Carlow bypass is similarly bare.

If it isn't done and its part of the scheme, I would think that is an enforcement issue and could go to An Bord Pleanala if Tipperary County Council and the NRA won't budge on it ?
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:34 am

cactus flower wrote:
Furet wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
I haven't come across what you are talking about in terms of unplanted areas. I wonder were they shown as unplanted in the original planning documents?

The EIS, which contained detailed drawings, was available on the South Tipperary County Council's website up until about a month ago, but I can't access it now. As far as I know, the landscape architect's drawings did include plenty of planting. Unfortunately, this hasn't materialised along large tracts of the scheme. From what I've heard, the the new M9 Carlow bypass is similarly bare.

If it isn't done and its part of the scheme, I would think that is an enforcement issue and could go to An Bord Pleanala if Tipperary County Council and the NRA won't budge on it ?

Possibly; but the drawings indicated what the plants would look like when mature, rather than specifying the amount of whips actually set. Now, while many of these were planted, it was only along certain areas. In addition, many have simply died. The NRA's preference of late is to try and 'blend' new roads into the existing landscape which, through south Tipperary, tends to be pastoral. So the theory is to not plant trees, but rather grasses. For obvious reasons, this isn't working they way they intended, I suspect.
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 11:32 am

Furet's pictures from above. Some illegal weeds there

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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 12:11 pm

Welcome, furet, I'm glad you're persisting with this. As I posted elsewhere, I'm fully supportive of this initiative, particularly the emphasis on native broadleafs (native conifers and evergreen broadleafs - more Arbutus Unedo please - too where they can act as a noise-break for adjacent residential areas - deciduous broadleafs obviously losing that capacity in winter). And, as I also said elsewhere, a wider move away from monocultural forestry by Coillte, as has been happening successfully in Scotland, to stop the silent deadlands of Sitka that infest the country, is urgent.

And Auditor, we badly need to tackle the blight of ragwort, those tall yellow-flowering weeds (they're quite pretty by themselves) that infest motorway verges and wastelands everywhere, where they thrive on disturbed soil. They spread like wildfire into neighbouring fields where they can kill horses and cattle who eat too much of them (sheep seem to know to avoid them). It's actually illegal for landowners not to remove them, punishable by a small fine (the legislation is very old), yet the State is the most persistent offender. There are small campaigns by oddballs like myself every year, even Kevin Myers has written two full columns on it in the last year or so, but to little avail...
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 12:40 pm

The ragwort probably deserves a thread of its own. Is cutting out by hand still the best way of knocking it back?

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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 1:07 pm

toxic avenger wrote:
Welcome, furet, I'm glad you're persisting with this. As I posted elsewhere, I'm fully supportive of this initiative, particularly the emphasis on native broadleafs (native conifers and evergreen broadleafs - more Arbutus Unedo please - too where they can act as a noise-break for adjacent residential areas - deciduous broadleafs obviously losing that capacity in winter). And, as I also said elsewhere, a wider move away from monocultural forestry by Coillte, as has been happening successfully in Scotland, to stop the silent deadlands of Sitka that infest the country, is urgent.

And Auditor, we badly need to tackle the blight of ragwort, those tall yellow-flowering weeds (they're quite pretty by themselves) that infest motorway verges and wastelands everywhere, where they thrive on disturbed soil. They spread like wildfire into neighbouring fields where they can kill horses and cattle who eat too much of them (sheep seem to know to avoid them). It's actually illegal for landowners not to remove them, punishable by a small fine (the legislation is very old), yet the State is the most persistent offender. There are small campaigns by oddballs like myself every year, even Kevin Myers has written two full columns on it in the last year or so, but to little avail...

I'm aware that those lovely yellow weeds are poisonous but hithero this MN thread back in the Spring I wasn't .

Access to these areas near motorways mustn't be easy though either and I'm just wondering how wide an area adjacent to the motorway is public land- we need more trees for many purposes besides as raw material. We're an agricultural country but yet we don't see trees as valuable as they really are. No one has told me yet about the Green Party line on trees and An Coillte. SPN on p.ie you'd imagine might know but at least agrees that there is a need for more trees but cannot directly say what the party line is on it.

Planting next to the motorways offsets carbon if they are worried about that and has the other environmental effects too - offsets ugliness and noise. It's all very negligent by our government unless they think the tourists want to look out over the lovely Irish landscape. Which is a thing - there must be plenty of beauty spots on motorways themselves - I'm thinking of the Cork-Dublin route near Mitchelstown perhaps - there are some scenes of beauty there as there are coming into Limerick from Dublin and looking out over the Tipperary mountains. For the passengers to view and photograph I mean of course, not the driver.
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 1:17 pm

Ragwort, if pulled up by hand, multiplies by four or five if you cut it out by hand, the roots, thus split, produce new plants. Actually letting it go to seed is better, but only if the area around it is undisturbed, e.g. by rabbits, thus rabbit control is important.
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 1:21 pm

Thanks for the welcome folks! And thanks for putting up my pictures, Auditor#9.

What's prompted my interest in this is, I guess, personal. I live right beside the new M8 (when I'm in Tipp at any rate). Firstly, I should say, I welcome the motorway on safety grounds. The old N8 was seriously overcrowded and, as everyone knows, experienced fatalaties on an annual basis - some of which have, over the years, struck rather too close to home for comfort. I'm also interested in the construction process itself. I've started numerous threads on boards.ie about the works on the Cashel to Cullahill section, and, most recently, the Mitchelstown to Fermoy section. (You'll find some of the threads here amongst this list, as well as upwards of 100 photos of the two schemes under varying degress of construction: http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/tags.php?tag=motorway)

I've just been very disappointed with the landscaping on the scheme outside my home in Tipperary. The weeds have indeed spread from the motorway to the adjaced fields and gardens, and the countryside has lost a lot of its vertue (forgive the pun!).

I've contacted Mary White TD so far and have received a fairly cursory reply. The respondent (it wasn't Mary White herself) says that my idea is good, and that John Gormley will be told about it. This made me fairly happy, and I hope to receive a more substantial response soon. I've also contacted the NRA and asked them if they have any plans to put more trees along the 37km route between junctions 9 and 12. In the email I attached my photos, and explained the situation to them. I sent it on Friday, so I probably won't get a reply until late next week, as I had a lot of other questions in it too.
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 1:26 pm

Auditor #9 wrote:
It's all very negligent by our government unless they think the tourists want to look out over the lovely Irish landscape. Which is a thing - there must be plenty of beauty spots on motorways themselves - I'm thinking of the Cork-Dublin route near Mitchelstown perhaps - there are some scenes of beauty there as there are coming into Limerick from Dublin and looking out over the Tipperary mountains. For the passengers to view and photograph I mean of course, not the driver.

Absolutely. From junction 9 to 12 should be one of the most beautiful mainline drives in the whole country. You travel through the Golden Vale; you see the Galtees and their wonderful forests up very close for many kilometres; and the majestic Knockmealdown Mountains are starkly visible, too. The M8 should be a masterpice, not the hatchet job it currently is.
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 1:37 pm

That ragwort sounds virulent. So, there are at least two issues here

uncontrolled ragwort and other illegal weeds (?)
lack of forestry

I would say managing those views might also be important although if I remember right, the views are often from elevated areas of the motorways so tree planting might not be practical in these spots anyway. Ragwort will still flourish though.

Who is liable for these illegal plants ? A couple of farmer's cow's get sick from eating NRA-sponsored ragwort and they could have a case against the state thus there is a potential legal as well as ecological and other dimension to it.

I'll post some of your other pictures of the motorway construction on another neglected thread I have here on roads in general. I mean to take some of the Limerick-Nenagh bypass but haven't got around to it yet.
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 1:49 pm

Furet - have you had any useful replies on other boards?

Where I maybe can help is in chasing the NRA about their obligations - I have some contacts there.
Do you know if the contract has been completed and signed off yet? Normally the landscaping contract includes some maintenance and insists on replacement of failed planting for example. Do you want any support with chasing up that side of it?
The principle of allowing extra planting where it would be beneficial I think is a great idea, but there would be insurance and safety issues, and the NRA would may be wary of making an "in principle" decision that would effect all National Roads across the country..

In my time I've carried out guerilla tree planting on public and other land. That is also an option, provided it is done safely, and doesn't interfere with sightline visibility on the road. There can also be risks of digging up cables - not a nice one. So all in all, it would be better to get the NRA on board.
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 1:53 pm

Auditor #9 wrote:
That ragwort sounds virulent. So, there are at least two issues here

uncontrolled ragwort and other illegal weeds (?)
Yes - hogweed, burdock, dock, giant thistle.

Quote :
lack of forestry
Yup.
And a third, which is purely aesthetic: long, stringy, weedy brown grass growing absolutely everywhere.

Quote :
I would say managing those views might also be important although if I remember right, the views are often from elevated areas of the motorways so tree planting might not be practical in these spots anyway.
Well, the photo I link to in the very first post on this thread is of a relatively high-up area. It affords spectacular views on all sides, and as can be seen, is extremely underplanted. In fact there's as much unused land (and probably more) visible in that photo as there is motorway.

Quote :
I'll post some of your other pictures of the motorway construction on another neglected thread I have here on roads in general. I mean to take some of the Limerick-Nenagh bypass but haven't got around to it yet.
Cheers, and I look forward to seeing your photos.


Last edited by Furet on Sun Dec 07, 2008 2:11 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 2:10 pm

cactus flower wrote:
Furet - have you had any useful replies on other boards?
Very limited interest on boards.

Quote :
Where I maybe can help is in chasing the NRA about their obligations - I have some contacts there.
Do you know if the contract has been completed and signed off yet? Normally the landscaping contract includes some maintenance and insists on replacement of failed planting for example. Do you want any support with chasing up that side of it?
That would be fantastic. I'm hoping to receive some clarification on those points when the NRA replies to my recent email. One poster on boards.ie did say that fresh planting took place last week along the M6, which did give me some hope.

Quote :
The principle of allowing extra planting where it would be beneficial I think is a great idea, but there would be insurance and safety issues, and the NRA would may be wary of making an "in principle" decision that would effect all National Roads across the country..
Yes, people initially form an image of planting trees where they will obscure signage and be in danger of toppling onto the road. It's important to explain that with a lot of the motorway schemes open in the past year or two, the amout of unused roadside land extends far, far away from the actual carriageway. There is no danger to road safety whatsoever from planting in the areas I'm talking about. When speaking to your contacts at the NRA, you might show them the photo at the top of the thread (here: http://www.skeheenarinky.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=11&pos=7 and here http://www.skeheenarinky.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=11&pos=8 and especially here http://www.skeheenarinky.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=11&pos=14 for example) just to demonstrate the sheer volume of space available, bearing in mind that areas with even more room than this exist along the corridor.

Quote :
In my time I've carried out guerilla tree planting on public and other land. That is also an option, provided it is done safely, and doesn't interfere with sightline visibility on the road.
The thought has crossed my mind. In fact, I've 20 acorns sitting in pots right now... Smile

Quote :
So all in all, it would be better to get the NRA on board.
Absolutely. Getting the NRA on board is vital. It can't be done without them. They should consider, though, the PR potential that exists here. The NRA, by getting involved in a tree-planting campaign, can earn some environmental credentials.


Last edited by Furet on Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 2:45 pm

I'll look out the EIS maps. Would you let us know what the NRA says in its reply?
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 2:46 pm

Trreerorism?

Is there a precedent for that - midnight raids on weeding Hogwort and planting oaks ?
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:03 pm

cactus flower wrote:
I'll look out the EIS maps. Would you let us know what the NRA says in its reply?

Will do.
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PostSubject: Re: A proposal: Motorways, trees and acres of unused land: an opportunity to be seized   Sun Dec 07, 2008 4:54 pm

Hi Furet

This is a great idea and a pity more of it is not done automatically when roads are built. The explanation you had for why no trees were planted on the new road isn't very persuasive. 'Couldn't be bothered' would probably better sum it up.

A firend of mine is a big tree expert - divides his time between Ireland and N America each year and among other things grows trees here in Ireland - he and his partner are very knowledgeable about everyting to do with trees - he may well have some good ideas or observations to make. I think I'm right in saying that he has direct experience of the sort of thing you are suggesting so if he is able to pop in here and throw in his 2c it would be great - I've invited him along. Really hope you get this off the ground.

We might start a nationwide voguue for tree planting societies. Smile I know the stretch of road too and it is very stark at the moment. Aren't the tree-lined French roadsides beautiful?

Here's the Tree Council of Ireland's website which I ain't had a chance to look through yet but there may be stuff here that would be of use - if you aren't already familiar with it, which you probably are:

http://www.treecouncil.ie/tree_council_programmes.htm


Last edited by Aragon on Sun Dec 07, 2008 4:57 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling error)
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