Walk by a busy commercial intersection in Peterborough, a schoolyard in Ottawa, a kids play area in Kingston, and a residential alleyway in Montreal, and you might notice some big changes. All of these sites are part of the 2015 Depave Paradise program, in which community groups partnering with site hosts get volunteers to tear up unused pavement and replace it with native plants and trees.
Depave Paradise is a program of Green Communities Canada and its member organizations. With funding support from the RBC Blue Water Project, six sites in communities across the country are now being transformed – the four mentioned above, and two more in Winnipeg and Hamilton to be completed in spring of 2016.
Depave Paradise engages communities in understanding problems affecting the urban water cycle due to the growth in impervious surfaces, and green infrastructure solutions that restore and imitate natural ecological processes. Depave Paradise is a great way of attracting attention from community members, the media, businesses, and VIPs like municipal, provincial and federal politicians.
Removing an unnecessary impervious surface and restoring soil and vegetation not only reduces runoff and water pollution: it creates green space that can be used by communities, adds habitat and increases biodiversity, reduces the urban heat island effect, makes streets more walkable, and sequesters carbon.
In total, there have been 15 Depave Paradise events in Canada since 2012, and at least four more will take place in 2016. Over 1800 m² of asphalt has been removed, resulting in an estimated 1.8 million litres of stormwater annually that is now being absorbed into the ground instead of running off into storm sewers.
Depave Paradise was adopted from the Portland, Oregon-based organization Depave, which has assisted Green Communities Canada in providing training and support to local host organizations.
Depave events are great fun, bringing people together to rip up pavement and get their hands dirty. But the impact extends far beyond a one-day event. A 2012 project initiated by Greening Nipissing in North Bay, in a right-of-way just across from the city hall, continues to soak up water and look beautiful.
“Depave Paradise is a wonderful project for our community. Each day, I see the garden out my window and I’m reminded that we need to do more of these great projects all over the city,” says North Bay Mayor Al MacDonald.
This article was published in The Umbrella Stormwater Bulletin Issue #38.
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