PORTLAND — In 2001, Northeast Portland resident Arif Khan had a backyard full of pavement. Now he has a garden full of veggies, herbs and fruit trees.
“I preferred a garden over concrete,” he said. “I planted a tree a few feet high, and now I can climb up it and eat figs.”
While his fruit trees were growing, so was a new nonprofit organization devoted to tearing out unnecessary asphalt and concrete and replacing it with community gardens.
The Portland-based volunteer group Depave has been rolling back impervious surfaces across the city since 2007. Lot by lot, its projects are reducing the volume of polluted stormwater runoff that enters the city’s waterways, dialing down the urban “heat island effect” that comes from hot pavement in the summertime, and growing fruits and vegetables for low-income families.
Over the past four years, hundreds of Depave volunteers have removed more than 58,000 square feet of pavement to expose the soil underneath and unleash vegetation that can provide cooling shade, reduce noise and filter air and water.
The map above pinpoints dozens of depaving projects in Portland. The green marks indicate a completed Depave volunteer project. Orange marks are potential Depave projects. And the blue dots are other independent depaving projects. Some depavers added comments on their sites, such as: “We de-paved our massive driveway last year and have beautiful gardens and 6 new trees and 8 rain barrels this year! And we put our concrete on Craigslist and every bit of it was picked up!”
Last year, Depave took on nonprofit status, and Khan says the group is is ready to grow – in more ways than one.
What will the group advocate for?
Perhaps fewer parking space requirements for new developments, Khan said. Or an end to Portland’s rule that food carts must be located on a paved lot. Maybe more policies that reward people for capturing rainwater on their property, instead of letting it roll off pavement and into the sewers.
Once they’re torn up, asphalt can be recycled, and concrete can be reused. But Depave doesn’t advocate for either one. Kahn said he prefers pervious pavements that let water through.
The group takes applications to decide which projects four to six projects to tackle each year. The 2012 schedule hasn’t been set yet.
View Depaved! - Completed & Potential Future Sites in a larger map
(Read more from Cassandra Profita on her Ecotrope blog.)
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