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Volunteers help depave old parking lot to expand community garden

A group of community members slugged asphalt all day at Heritage Park to make room for more garden boxes

A group of community volunteers hand-bombed chunks of asphalt into a dumpster today, getting rid of more than 100 square metres of parking lot to expand a local community garden.

The Depave Paradise event took place on April 29 at Heritage Park on the Second Street side of the park and was a joint effort between the town and the Environment Network.

Kerri MacDonald, executive director of Environment Network, said the project received funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and is the second depaving event in the same spot.

A portion of the parking lot was removed in 2019 to make way for garden boxes and fruit trees. The depaving done today doubles the space for the community garden, allowing five more garden boxes to be installed in the area. The boxes are being built by Collingwood Collegiate Institute (CCI) students.

The food grown in the community garden is given away as it is harvested, and this year some of the food will go to the Project Butterfly community food pantry located at the Collingwood Youth Centre.

Last year, the community garden produced more than 3,000 servings of fruits and vegetables, which were all given away.

Though there was a backhoe on site yesterday (April 28) to break up the pavement, the broken pieces were picked up by hand by a group of community volunteers and a class from CCI.

MacDonald said clearing the space by hand is a good way for a community to connect with each other and feel a sense of ownership and responsibility to make positive changes.

The asphalt was loaded by hand into bins and taken away to be recycled.

Depave Paradise is a project of Green Communities Canada and is now engaging volunteers and neighbourhoods in communities across Canada, removing pavement and planting gardens filled with native species in its place.

Between 2012 and 2021, Depave Paradise has worked with community groups and local co-ordinators to depave 64 sites in 28 communities spread across five provinces. Volunteers have helped remove 14,365 square metres of pavement, which has helped divert 14,365 cubic metres of stormwater run-off (equivalent to almost six Olympic-size swimming pools of water).

“Hard surfaces, such as parking lots, prevent rain from soaking into the ground, increasing flood risk and polluting water in rivers and lakes,” states the Depave Paradise website.

The latest Collingwood project involved depaving 110 square metres of area.

Because of depaving projects, 285 trees and 7,640 perennial flowers have been planted.

“By removing unused pavement and replacing it with native plants, trees, and shrubs, we are replenishing groundwater, cooling and beautifying our neighbourhoods,” states the Depave Paradise website.

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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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