by Marlene Berlin
As the taxi drove us into Barcelona from the airport on August 5, I looked at the streets and saw trees galore, palm and plane trees for the most part. I thought this is a city that rivals DC in its greenery. We were dropped off at 29 Passeig Pujades, where we had rented an apartment. It was warm and humid as I paced back and forth on the street waiting for Dolores, our landlady who lived around the corner. On this wide six-lane road, where there were so few cars during what we would call rush hour, that traffic could triple and still not present a busy street, I marveled at the width of the sidewalks that had two rows of trees, large garbage bins, perpendicular parked cars, cafes, and plenty of space and shade for walking.
As I marched back and forth, I looked down at the tree boxes. They were tiny compared to ours with bare, compacted sand-colored soil. I then looked up at the tree which had yellowing and falling leaves, a sign of stressed trees. I wondered how in the world they even survived with this being the tree box, the only way for them to get water since their root system was completely surrounded by impervious surface.
On the one night we went out for tapas with Dolores, our landlady, I asked her about the tree boxes and whether there was an underground watering system. She shook her head no, and agreed that the trees did not have enough open space. She thought this issue was worthy of a letter to their newspaper when she got back from her vacation.
We did a lot of walking in Barcelona and the trees afforded us the shade to make it comfortable even in the heat. I saw mostly plane trees existing in the same small tree box areas. I did find out from this manual, that the city has a watering schedule, and in new areas they are putting in drip irrigation systems. I don’t know how this is faring given the deep recession there, but it is clear from this manual, that Barcelona has a long history of valuing its trees, and just like Washington, it would not be the livable, walkable city it is without them.
As the ANC 3F Vision Committee for our commercial area continues its work with residents, property owners, and businesses, we want to inculcate a vision of a beautiful tree lined Connecticut Avenue commercial area. We will get help in bringing this vision to fruition from the trees being planted by the BF Saul development, and money wrestled from the DC budget by Councilmember Mary Cheh for a Green Team to water the trees. If we all work together to make a better life for our trees on the avenue, we will all benefit.