Land use | Sustainability | Water | Ecotrope

Depaving Portland: Will Your Driveway Be Next?

Ecotrope | Jan. 10, 2012 2:17 p.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:33 p.m.

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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.

Depave's Fargo Forest Garden project on N. Williams before the pavement was removed.

Depave’s Fargo Forest Garden project on N. Williams before the pavement was removed.

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.

Fargo Forest Garden after 3,000 square feet of pavement were removed and the lot was planted.

Fargo Forest Garden after 3,000 square feet of pavement were removed and the lot was planted.

Will your driveway be next? The group is offering a how-to workshop in the spring and an online guide to doing it yourself.

Last year, Depave took on nonprofit status, and Khan says the group is is ready to grow – in more ways than one.

The pavement removal process at Fargo Forest Garden.

The pavement removal process at Fargo Forest Garden.

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 four to six projects to tackle each year. The 2012 schedule hasn’t been set yet.

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