Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Depaving the Castle

May 2012

Some of you may know that Josh and I have been involved in an organization called Depave for the last three years.  We like to take a few summer weekends and give back to our community that has been so welcoming.  We volunteer to help rip up asphalt and concrete at schools, churches and small businesses to allow for green space, water infiltration, and general place making.  After doing this for over 10 locations we have really seen the benefits.  The transformation of black top to gardens, playgrounds, and bio swales have been truly inspiring.  One of the things Depave wanted to try was to have a workshop to show how homeowners can depave their own properties.  In Portland,  many of our small yards are filled with driveways and parking areas that we don't use. These spaces could be growing plants, absorbing water and providing habitats for animals and birds. 

 We offered up our house as a good candidate for the workshop.  We actually share our driveway with our neighbor Mary.  In the backyard we have a confusing, code breaking triple garage that we share with a huge parking pad in front.  I mean huge.  The pad actually is one continuous concrete area that is our patio, parking spot, two other parking spots and her own patio.  It was a crazy 100' x 20' area which frequently flooded due to a capped storm sewer line.  We decided we would be willing to remove huge areas to become flower beds, gravel parking, and a center planting strip to improve our drainage and allow rain to sink into the ground and refresh the water shed instead of running back into the street and sewer.
All in all, it was about 1,500 square feet to remove.  We designed a landscape plan, ordered tons of gravel, rented a concrete saw and bought plants in preparation for 30 workshoppers, 10 depavers, and one videographer to document our progress.  This was a big project, which in many ways will not improve the value of our home, or even make a huge difference in curb appeal.  However, we felt it was the right thing to do for our planet and for the organization.

The weekend before in the relentless rain that is May in Portland we worked to get the space ready for the workshop.  We look down our fence which divided the patio from our parking spot, pre-cut the concrete, selected the materials, and made numerous trips to get supplies ready.  Plants in hand, on soggy and cool Saturday we started to work....

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