Growing up in the city of Seattle, we were frequently taken to visit our Norwegian grandparents out on Hood’s Canal: cement and asphalt contrasted to the Douglass fir-lined highways of the Olympic Peninsula. Things gradually changed over the years: more cement and asphalt in Seattle and less, way less “green” out along the Canal as it was also being developed – covered in asphalt and cement – and the population spread out from the main cities of Western Washington State. Looking back it’s sad to have witnessed this dramatic shift over the past many years.
But now, in 2017, we are seeing another dramatic transformation, a regeneration if you like. Community groups have taken up the idea to reverse this expansion which involved cutting trees down, bulldozing brush, destroying habitat, etc. The asphalt and the concrete is being dug up and the soil underneath is seeing the light of day once again. By the way, asphalt contains toxins like PAHs (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and the soil underneath needs intensive tlc because it has been isolated and depleted under the asphalt for the life of the asphalt. There is a lot of information online about rehabilitating soil. And don’t forget to recycle the asphalt and concrete – separately! I am so happy to see this type of action becoming more and more common – in fact, if one thinks about it, this is an astounding turn around of thought and action. Perhaps we are beginning to realize that big changes are needed urgently. Digging up a parking lot may seem like a drop in the bucket towards the change we need but what a transformation!
We can look to the Depave project at Vestal Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, where they converted a blacktop area into a community garden. There is a great need for work like this in urban and suburban areas all over the world. Just think how many acres of parking lots there must be in the area where you live? Another example is taking place in Kent, Washington: Paradise Parking Plots is hosted at Hillside Church and is a project with World Relief Seattle. Two acres of parking lot are currently being turned into a community farm which will include the planting of trees. Designed by Stone Soup Gardens, Paradise Parking Plots will capture water run off from a 30,000 square foot roof, and will also turn a natural spring into a habitat pond. (The stream currently runs across the pavement and into a storm drain.)
Organizations like Build a Better Burb, an online publication dedicated to improving suburban design and planning, and an Oregon based non profit are beginning to make a big difference to our neighborhoods. Here is an example of the media beginning to expose this new idea.
Who wouldn’t rather walk barefoot through grass & flowers, avoiding that hot pavement?
Not to mention the benefits of better stormwater, drainage management, improved wildlife habitat, property value increase due to improved surroundings. The result of all these changes would be an invitation to all living things from insects to birds and all creatures including we humans to enjoy the natural world. Let’s all take stock, think about what’s happening to our planet, reconsider our actions and begin to make changes now!