Friday, November 11, 2011

Urban Depavers Reclaim Abandoned Lots

Photo courtesy: Depave/Video screen capture

Oh boy, do I like this group! They have everything: environmental convictions, volunteers, principles, energy...and I could go on and on. Perhaps the thing I like most about this group and their projects is they have the courage to back up words with action. Too few of us put our backs or our spare time into causes we say we support. They wanted to make a difference; and, they found a way to make that happen.

I hope the "depaving movement" goes global.

Urban areas are great for increasing density and reducing collective resource use, but they're not quite perfect. The asphalt that covers so much of cities retains heat and is impermeable; it leads to storm water pollution and is bad for air quality. Not to mention that every block of pavement is a block where plants can't grow.

Yet all over American cities, there are abandoned parking lots and public spaces that could be a lot more pleasant, and healthier, if it weren't for the layer of asphalt covering them. But one group is slowly taking back the land in an effort to create more green space and improve the local environment, by ripping up unwanted asphalt.

Depave is a Portland-based non-profit that organizes volunteer "depaving" sessions, wherein a group descends on an empty or underutilized lot and transforms it into a public green space, whether a community garden, playground or soccer field.

Since 2007, Depave has returned more than 94,000 square feet of Portland back to nature; it takes on more projects and draws more volunteers each year. In addition to the depaving, the non-profit also advocates to minimize the amount of impervious pavement installed in the city, and to recycle the asphalt and concrete it removes.

The idea is simple but very effective. Less pavement means less air pollution. It means more plants and more pleasant common areas where neighbors can gather and get away from the sometimes overwhelming density that comes with living in a big city. It means more community gardens, so more city dwellers can get involved in the local food movement.

If you're in Portland, you can check out Depave's upcoming projects and get involved. If not, you can start a movement wherever you call home; Depave offers resources and tips for getting started.


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