"Depaving" project will restore welcome green space

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Andrea Prazmowski the Faith Formation Leader and Rev. Jenni Leslie, from the Kitchissippi United Church are looking forward to turning asphalt into green space. Photo by Andrea Tomkins.

Special to KT by Andrea Prazmowski

When a church talks about floods and “new life,” you might guess it’s a reference to Noah and the Ark and not a conversation about asphalt and storm sewers. But at Kitchissippi United Church, the talk has been about all those things as the congregation gets ready to tear out some asphalt and plant a new garden and outdoor seating area.

The church, at 630 Island Park Dr., has a south entrance in an alcove with three brick walls and wall-to-wall asphalt. In the coming months, volunteers will take out nearly 100 square metres of asphalt, put down soil, plant a butterfly garden and other perennials and shrubs and install benches. The plan is for a “welcoming, green and vibrant space” that invites people to pause and enjoy the beauty and peace of the garden, says Church Council Chair, Doug Patriquin.

The project is a “Depave Paradise” partnership with local environmental group Ecology Ottawa, with funding from Green Communities Canada.  It is part of a movement to highlight the consequences of having hard, impermeable surfaces covering much of the soil in urban areas, and to begin to reverse some of the negative effects.

“With all this pavement, a lot of stormwater is directed to sewers and never gets a chance to return to the ground,” explains Ecology Ottawa’s Karen Hawley. “In older neighbourhoods, when there’s a big storm, there’s a surge down the storm drains and that mixes with our wastewater and then empties into the rivers.  We want to reduce pavement and add green and permeable surfaces to address that problem. Plants and trees act as sponges for stormwater runoff and restore the natural hydrological cycle.” Overwhelmed sewers can also lead to flooded streets and homes, she adds.

The whole plan gets two thumbs up from Kenora Street resident Margaret Tyson, who played on the church site as a child in the 1940s before the church was built. “It was all marshland, and I remember picking blueberries and chokecherries and bulrushes there,”says Tyson.  Later, as a member of Kitchissippi United Church, Tyson says she looked out over the paved alcove and dreamed of seeing a garden there.  Now that dream is coming true.

Tyson is active with the church’s Ecological Christianity Circle, and notes that this isn’t the only “green” initiative underway. The church conducted a Green Audit of the building and operations and is now putting final steps on a plan to reduce energy, water use and waste.

[framed_box bgColor=”#D8ECFF” align=”right”]Church and Ecology Ottawa volunteers will bring out sledgehammers and steel-toed boots on June 15 to remove the asphalt in this alcove at Kitchissippi United Church. Neighbourhood volunteers are welcome. The depaving is taking place from 12:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Planting is September 13, with a rain date of September 14. Volunteers are asked to sign up and get details online at surveymonkey.com/s/depaveparadise. [/framed_box]

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