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Volunteers de-pave Collingwood, one parking lot at a time

This is what happens when you play a Joni Mitchell song backwards
Volunteers work on the parking lot at the former Dey's Auto (soon to be Black Bellows Brewing Company) to remove all the pavement. The site will be landscaped with permeable materials allowing the ground to absorb water. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

When the day is done, there will be one less parking lot in Collingwood.

A crew of volunteers is currently chipping away at the pavement on the corner of Simcoe and Ste. Marie Streets where the former Dey’s Auto used to park cars awaiting repairs.

The site is under renovations and will reopen later this year as Black Bellows Brewing Company. The current effort underway is the work of Depave Paradise, a non-profit organization that helps get rid of pavement in urban landscapes and replace it with landscapes more connected to the nature and environmental function of the place.

Environment Network, a local non-profit, works with Depave Paradise for local projects and has coordinated the work at Black Bellows.

About 15 volunteers are there working with Black Bellows co-founders to remove the pavement on the corner of the property.

Depave Paradise also provides funding to create a new landscape on the property that is fully permeable for rainwater and incorporates native species plants into the design.

Jacey Aikens works for Environment Network and was coordinating today’s work day.

“It’s all about creating permeable spaces … and restoring the balance to the natural water cycle,” she said, adding pavement can contribute to polluted run-off water ending up in rivers and lakes, where natural landscapes will absorb and purify water through the ground before it reaches source waters.

She said this year has been a good example of pavement leading to flooding, where heavy rainfalls have had nowhere to go but to rivers, which have overflowed due to the extra loading from storm events.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how this turns out when it’s fully finished,” said Aikens of the Black Bellows project. The plan, made between Black Bellows and Environment Network is to incorporate trees, a white cedar deck for the patio and chipped material for the beer garden. There will be no pavement or paving stones on site.

Environment Network, through Depave Paradise, works in public or private spaces, and has another project planned at Heritage Park later this year.

“Honestly, we just want to remove as much pavement as possible,” said Aikens. “We don’t discriminate where it comes from.”

Scott Brown, co-founder of Black Bellows said the plan was always to remove some pavement, but being able to access the Depave Paradise program convinced them to remove it all and replace it with permeable materials.

“We’re grateful for the help in creating something that’s more environmentally sustainable and accomplishes that big community mission,” he said.

Brown expects the site has been paved for nearly 70 years, or as long as there has been pavement available.

He’s excited about the finished product and thrilled to have the volunteer help today.

“It’s so fantastic to have that connection to the community,” he said. “It’s exciting to see people come out and help with this initiative.”

Brown said he and the other founders of Black Bellows aim to open for September and he’s hopeful people will be able to enjoy the new, depaved patio this year.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 15 years of experience as a local journalist
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