By Annabel Krupp

Joni Mitchell’s famous lyrics “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot” must have been going through the heads of staff and volunteers as they worked together to rip apart an old parking lot at New Horizons Thrift Shop at 520 James Street North.  In it’s place is now 2000 square feet of permeable pavers and 10 garden boxes filled with native plants.

These permeable pavers are a thing of beauty.  Called EcoRasters, they are made from recycled plastic bags; this small parking lot saved a whopping 190,000 plastic bags from the landfill.  After laying out the pavers, volunteers filled the EcoRasters with a mix of high performance bedding and premium garden soil.  A mixture of clover, sheep fescue and eco lawn seeds were then spread across the lot.  In the spring, the community will have the opportunity to help by reseeding the paving system with creeping thyme and sedums.

The garden boxes were built with the help of the Hamilton Tool Library and will add much needed habitat for our pollinators.

To get this project on the ground required a lot of work.  35 volunteers gave over 250 hours of planning and on-site work, and along with Green Venture staff and contractors ultimately removed 2000 square feet of compacted gravel and 525 square feet of asphalt.  In another brilliant eco-move, the asphalt will be recycled into new roads.

Depave Paradise is a project by Green Venture and Green Communities Canada.  They work to engage volunteers and neighbourhoods to remove pavement and put native gardens in its place.  The project is inspired by the forward-thinking City of Portland, Oregon.  They have depaved over 100,000 square feet in their city and inspired many other communities to follow suit. The City of Hamilton is the perfect place to expand this project.  The downtown core is known for it’s large number of surface lots, finding opportunities to depave some of these has numerous community benefits.

Depave Paradise’s main focus is hard surfaces.  Driveways, parking lots, and buildings interrupt the natural water cycle by preventing rain from soaking into the ground.  This leads to flooding and poor water quality.  Removing hard surfaces and installing low impact design solutions like this helps decrease the speed of water entering our rivers and storm water sewers, directly leading to reduced flooding. The filtration of water through the ground rather than over land also increases water quality and helps restore the natural hydrological cycle.

With significant rain evens and subsequent flooding becoming a frequent occurrence, projects like these become more important. The City of Hamilton declared at least two rainstorm disasters this year and that costs property owners and tax payer’s money.

There are many ways you can help Hamilton and the North End depave paradise. Consider installing a green driveway at your home, or encourage your business neighbour, church, or local representative to support greening our community.  You can also find out more at http://www.depaveparadise.ca/hamilton.