Here’s why removing unused pavement creates a cleaner city

On Friday morning, volunteers from the London Environmental Network will team up to remove 100 square metres of pavement from the campus grounds of Fanshawe College. 

Unused pavement is impermeable and prevents storm water from soaking into the natural ground. Instead, the water collects debris, salt and chemicals from the surface of the pavement, then drags those toxins into nearby waterway systems. 

As a result, urban areas with unused pavement tend to have more pollutants in water runoff than naturalized areas. 

Cole Taylor, green infrastructure coordinator for the London Environmental Network, said that toxic runoff water is a growing problem in London, Ont., as the city becomes increasingly urbanized. 

“In the city of London, I believe that goes out to the Thames [River] in general and it’s largely untreated,” said Taylor. 

“So a lot of the chemicals and everything running down the pavement of parking lots and roads just goes on to our nearby water bodies. And that affects on a large scale the ecosystem and everything that goes around us.” 

The London Environmental Network is the first organization in London to host a Depave Paradise event. The Depave Paradise program encourages communities across Canada to break up unused pavement and transform the area into a greener space. 

The pavement of Fanshawe College’s Arts Courtyard, located between the A and D Buildings, will be torn up piece by piece and sent to a recycling centre. 

The following week there will be a “planting day,” where volunteers meet again to lay down mulch and soil for a new garden. 

“Pavement is inevitable in our society, we definitely know that,” said Taylor. “But we find there’s a lot of unused areas that are paved for no real reason, where they could otherwise be planted and have permeable paving or different functionalities that way, rather than causing negative impacts with no real positive benefit from it.” 

The new garden will slow down water runoff, allowing it to be naturally filtered before entering the groundwater system. 

“We are not only facing a climate crisis, but also a biodiversity crisis,” said Skylar Franke, executive director of the London Environment Network. 

“Replacing pavement with native plants helps provide habitat, reduce water runoff and sequester carbon emissions. This project has so many benefits, including offering a new space for Fanshawe staff and students to enjoy outside. We are looking forward to seeing more pavement removed across London and replaced with green infrastructure.”

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