The Umbrella Stormwater Bulletin

People can’t get enough of Depave Paradise. We need your support.

People can’t get enough of Depave Paradise. We need your support.

Image credit: A Depave Paradise event at Brooklands School, Winnipeg (2016), hosted by Manitoba Eco-Network

Depave Paradise events are so popular that we have a waitlist of groups across Canada who want to do them. 

Imagine a dilapidated tennis court. A lonely paved courtyard in a school or a church. An uninviting, grey boulevard on a main street. Now picture a determined group of volunteers in steel-toed boots using hand tools to tear up the pavement in these sad places, plant beautiful native plant gardens and create welcoming community spaces. This is Depave Paradise.

Depave Paradise brings together community members to remove unwanted asphalt and create green spaces. Volunteers work together to depave and plant trees, bushes and gardens to revitalize these sad, grey places. People learn about the problems with hard surfaces in built up areas increasing urban runoff and pollution, and what they can do about it. A lot of hard work goes into creating a successful project, but it is well worth it for the long term benefits achieved.

We have a vision of partnering with groups in every region of the country to create pockets of paradise all over cities.  It’s just a start – by removing hard surfaces where they aren’t needed, we start conversations about how cities are designed and how they can be improved. Our projects may be small, but they add up and can have a big impact.

Twenty-two Depave Paradise events have taken place in thirteen cities across Canada since 2012. Schools, churches, public rights of way, and local businesses have been transformed. This spring look for events in Hamilton (ON), Aurora (ON), Newmarket (ON), Montreal (QC) and Bridgewater (NS). Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to get event updates!

Cities that start to depave can’t get enough. Some recent serial depaving:

GCC and our partners have had generous support, most recently from the RBC Blue Water Project, the Echo Foundation, and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, along with extensive community support from local municipalities, local businesses and dedicated volunteers.

Green infrastructure is not a commonly known term or concept for the general public. Depave Paradise takes this abstract term and makes it concrete, letting the public get involved in changing the make-up of their cities and making them more permeable. The events also attract media attention, providing a venue to engage the wider population in learning about stormwater management, the urban water cycle, and green infrastructure.

Community groups partner with a property owner with an area of unused pavement, usually in a highly visible public area or a community space like a church or a school. Project organizers are trained on how to plan the projects, from assessing the area, creating the “after” plan in consultation with the property owner and the community,  depaving and planting events (securing the required equipment, volunteers, creating a fun and safe environment for all ages and abilities, ensuring media coverage etc), and creating a plan of care for the garden. Our network of depavers meet regularly to build on the lessons and successes of each event.

Once you start looking, you’ll see areas that need depaving all around your city. We are constantly getting requests from groups or property owners that want to depave. So what can you do to make depaving a reality in your community? 

  • Get your municipality on board to identify project sites and provide in kind or financial support 
  • Get in touch with Alix Taylor if you work with a group that wants to organize a Depave Paradise event or if you have ideas for corporate funding 
  • Donate to Depave Paradise!

This blog was published in the Umbrella Stormwater Bulletin Issue 54.

Clara Blakelock

Manager of Water Programs at Green Communities Canada