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Streets Alive!!

Think Local

Each year, Waverton resident Vera Yee and a group of her Streets Alive volunteers gather to remember the victims of the Hiroshima atomic blast and to place a peace tribute in their local street where they have planted a beautiful garden.

It's a ritual that is important to them and adds some personal perspective to the community beautification work they are achieving with this project.

Mrs Yee is part of a growing North Sydney program comprising about 500 volunteers and up to 200 sites across the local area.

"I started planting outside my house many years ago and I’m also involved in the North whey bushcare program,” she tells North Shore Living.

"Over the years, the projects and the people involved expanded and what was unofficial became official with the advent of the Streets Alive program.

"We have also attempted to create wildlife corridors in Whatmore Lane and other streets including McKye and King Streets. We usually meet somewhere about once a week and we get our plants from the Coal Loader or council provides them."

Over the years, railway land in Whatmore Lane has been transformed. Fences have been moved away so more land is available for cultivation, with the residents removing railway waste, stones, gravel, metal wood, broken glass, litter and weeds.

Park benches have also been installed and natives planted. The area is now used by many people on their way to and from Waverton Station, with children clambering over logs and through a bushy track.

"It's a lot of fun - making the area beautiful but also it's a community get-together and it creates a social hub and is good exercise." she smiles.

It's a view shared by many other volunteers, including Bud Coffey in Ryries Parade at Cremorne. Mr Coffey and volunteers have transformed the parade and a number of other local sites with the help of the Streets Alive program.

"I moved here in 2001 and to be honest it was a complete disaster - I thought ‘What can I do to make the area look better?‘ I really got stuck into it, we bought some plants and then with the council assistance over time it has been transformed,” he says."Streets Alive is such a great project."

The program has just won the 2015 NSW State Parks and Leisure Australia Awards of Excellence and is now eligible for the federal award. The program was started by North Sydney Council in 1998, with about 150 community members. Over this time it has drawn on the time, skills and commitment of its volunteers to enhance the beauty of the area's local streets.

The council provides assistance with tools and equipment and specialist services such as arborists, carpenters, stonemasons and pest exterminators and the training of volunteers.

Robert Emerson, North Sydney director of open space and environment, says the beauty of the scheme is that you can volunteer weekly, monthly or less frequently.

“Many people come and go depending on their commitments,” he says.

"When we started the project the major objective was to improve the streetscape but there have been many other outcomes including connecting with other members of the community and creating a social hub. People meet neighbours they do not know, which provides for great social interaction.”

Stuart Green from Green Street in Cremorne is also an active member of the program. He decided to remove the existing ivy and weeds along a parcel of land adjacent to Green Street. His vision was to create an area that was more visually appealing and was able to attract birds and other wildlife.

Several working bees later, the site has been terraced, planted and mulched and the transformation is still ongoing.

Mr Emerson says the program will only "increase over time” as the benefits and “symbiosis” become part of the community relationship overall.

“We are going from strength to strength. Over Christmas people get together and share their enthusiasm and stories. it's an absolutely fabulous community partnership."

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