Residents of Eerste van Swindenstraat in Amsterdam were reminded of this with a flyer this week: their street will soon be renovated at the cost of 73 large elm trees. Although the hard-fought felling is final, schoolchildren in Amsterdam fought for the trees for the last time by giving each of them a unique ‘medal’.
‘In recent years, jackdaws have flown to us in large groups to spend the night. So if you like jackdaws, leave me alone ‘, is the text of one of the medals on a tree in Eerste van Swindenstraat. And indeed. If you take the trouble to listen, you will also hear jackdaws in the trees between the noise of the Dappermarkt and other street noises.
Students from two classes at Montessori College East painted the texts and decorated the medals to their liking. They were allowed to choose a tree to hang their creation on. For example, all 73 trees in Eerste van Swindenstraat have their own message. For example: ‘Reprofiles? The trees first! ‘. Or facts like: trees dampen sound, trees provide coolness, trees are small biotopes.
“A tree is not just a tree,” explains Charlotte Vergnol, one of the initiators of the project. “It’s food for insects and birds, but also a place to sleep. It’s actually an Airbnb with a buffet.”
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Vergnol works at Waste Palace, an initiative of the sustainability center Jungle Amsterdam, where everything revolves around circularity. The scarves that the medals are tied to the trees are made in their sewing workshop from remnants of fabrics from Dappermarkt. The project reached the students through the voluntary organization Ympact 020.
“Too many trees are being removed and small blades are coming back. It is not having the same effect. Heat stress is not normal here in the city. It is affecting more and more young children and the elderly. It is about health,” says Vergnol.
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According to Vergnol, the municipality should have thought of the trees only when the street was rerouted. “It depends on what you think is important. You can always do it differently. They now primarily want a kind of unity with Java Street, but I think that in the time we live in now, the trees are much more important.”
Because new pipes have to be laid, the roots of the current trees will be damaged and they will die, the municipality states. It is intended that the Eerste van Swindenstraat will soon be one-way towards the Pontanusstraat – something the entrepreneurs on the street were not thrilled about as it would cost them business – and that cyclists share the road with the cars. For example, the sidewalk can become wider and ‘more attractive for shoppers’, the municipality believes.
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That level for the new layout of Eerste van Swindenstraat started in 2017. The preliminary design was presented three years later and residents have had ten weeks to respond to it. The majority of the 143 responses concerned the protection of the trees, as can be read in the reply memorandum. However, the municipality has not made any changes to the design at this point.
On Wednesday 13 July, there will be an information meeting in the Jungle Café in Tweede van Swindenstraat between 16.00 and 18.30. The first work starts on Monday 22 August.
Neighbor Siegfried Zimmerman sees something in the new plans. “Yes, that’s very good, do you know why?” He points to the bike path. “When you ride a bike, it goes up, uh, that ground. So it needs to be improved.”
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When he hears that the new trees have a system that prevents the roots from pushing the paving stones back up, he is completely satisfied. “I think it’s good,” he nods.
Just down the street, Marvin Mosart of Nandan Shipping does not mind the trees walking. “I have hay fever, so it’s better they’re gone,” he laughs. “Really, I can not sit still in the summer, haha!”
But he also thinks it’s a shame, he admits. “I do not think I will be alive until the new trees get so big!”
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