Depave Paradise is an event where community volunteers and partners come together to remove paved surfaces (such as asphalt parking lots or driveways) and lay sod and plant flowers and trees in their place. The objective of a "depave" is not only to beautify the depaved area, but to allow more rain and stormwater to soak into the ground and be naturally filtered and cleaned -- as opposed to being directed into storm sewers -- before it reaches local waterways. So, on the surface, a depave is a landscaping project, but its real purpose is to help keep our drinking water clean.
Make no mistake: a depave involves hard work -- prying up and breaking metre-square sections of asphalt into smaller chunks, carting it away in wheelbarrows, tossing the chunks into 20-yard disposal bins, shoveling dirt and soil, and digging holes for plants and carrying and laying rolls of sod. But it’s also a lot of fun. There’s something immensely satisfying in working together in a team to accomplish a goal, especially one that unfolds right before your eyes and makes an immediate impact. Most depave volunteers say that they’re take part in another one in a heartbeat (but not right away)!
This was Red Squirrel’s fourth “depave” in as many years -- and its most ambitious one by far. The area of asphalt removed was larger, and another concrete-paved section was also removed (except we used a backhoe, instead of the hand tools we use for the asphalt).
Normally a depave lasts for a day or two, but various factors (mainly the scale of the project) turned this one into a multi-day affair. But the extra work was worth it: the new yard has three new trees, eight “sitting rocks”, a large new expanse of grass, and a garden planted with a number of hardy, low-maintenance plants such as Echinacea, sedges, daffodils, hostas, geraniums, and Achillea Red Velvet .
A project like this doesn’t happen without a ton of help – some of it behind the scenes, some readily apparent -- from a wide variety of people. Paul & Brenda van Belle (from Safety Guys in Kingston) designed the garden, chose the plants and trees, and contributed invaluable support and direction on-site before, during and after the event. (Paul, incidentally, is a heck of a backhoe operator.) Jason Makin at Cruickshank Construction loaned us pry bars so we could lever up the asphalt, let us dispose of it at Cruickshank's asphalt recycling site in Elginburg, and helped to arrange loans of other equipment (the backhoe, wheelbarrows, shovels) from Battlefield Equipment Rentals. On the afternoon before the depave, an unfortunate incident left us with a huge pile of several tons of broken concrete directly on the depave site, but no way to remove it. On extremely short notice, Murray Aitken, of Morven Construction, saved us when he and his crew came and scooped it up and trucked it all away – on a Friday afternoon, no less! They instantly became our heroes. Hughson Fencing also hauled away a load of asphalt. Pyke Farms and Unity Sod Farm gave us discounts on soil and sod. James Brown, community booster extraordinaire, generously picked up the food tab, and Cathy from the Boys & Girls Club turned our supply of groceries into a delicious lunch that fed our small brigade of hungry depavers.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the seed funding from the RBC Blue Water Project and organizational support from the folks at the RAIN program at Green Communities Canada.
By the way, Red Squirrel is ready and willing to orchestrate more depaves, but we need places to do them. If your organization has an old parking lot or asphalt-paved area that isn't getting much use and might be a good spot for a garden, let us know!
Check out our photo gallery below! Many thanks to Liz Cooper and Alec Ross for the images.