Quality matters when it comes to urban green space

July 26th, 2021

Volunteers moved 37 cubic yards of material to create this new Depave Paradise garden. (Photo by Geneviève Ramage)

By Hayley Goodchild, Neighbourhood and Residential Program Coordinator

Green spaces are an integral part of our urban ecosystems and critical for public health. A 2019 assessment of the City of Peterborough’s existing municipal parks and open space found a shortage of neighbourhood park space in Peterborough as a whole, with disproportionate gaps in some neighbourhoods. The report recommends a strategy for increasing and protecting urban green space into the future.

But not all green spaces are created equal. For example, expansive lawns offer limited ecological value and require a lot of energy and resources to maintain.

With less than a decade remaining to prevent catastrophic climate collapse, it is critical that we not only add more green space to our cities, but also enhance the ecological quality of green spaces too.

This week, we look at two GreenUP projects doing just that.

Winfield Shores Depave Paradise

GreenUP recently completed its first Depave Paradise project in Lakefield, in partnership with Winfield Shores Harbour and the Township of Selwyn. This 100-square-metre pocket park is located at the entrance to Winfield Shores Harbour on Stewart Drive, near the headwaters of the Otonabee River.

It took eighteen committed volunteers and three days to unleash the soil and build a garden where there used to be asphalt.

The goal of Depave Paradise is to use people power to remove pavement and allow rain to soak into the ground where it lands. This reduces localized flooding and improves the health of urban watersheds. Winfield Shores Pocket Park will divert approximately 75,000 litres of rainwater from the stormwater system each year. That’s the equivalent of 340 GreenUP rain barrels!

Before and after photos of the first Depave Paradise project in Lakefield, at Winfield Shores Harbour. (Photos by Geneviève Ramage.)

Removing asphalt creates opportunities for additional ecological and social benefits. For example, the trees and shrubs planted at Winfield Shores will take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, particularly when they’re young and growing quickly. The shade they create will offer respite to pedestrians on hot summer days.

“The Township of Selwyn is excited to collaborate with GreenUP and Green Communities Canada, to bring the first Depave Paradise project to the County of Peterborough,” explains Hillary Bradshaw, Selwyn’s Climate Change Coordinator.

“It’s a great example of a Rain Ready garden that promotes water conservation. By removing asphalt and planting native species, it demonstrates how residents can incorporate water-conscious landscape design on their own properties. It also supports the Township’s commitment with Bee City Canada, by planting native perennial and tree species, and promoting pesticide-free gardening.”

Volunteer Bill Stewart begins removing asphalt. Stewart’s family once owned the farm that preceded the construction of Winfield Shores on this site. (Photo by Geneviève Ramage)

Therapy Garden at Five Counties Children’s Centre

Back in the City of Peterborough, GreenUP has been working with Five Counties Children’s Centre to transform their backyard into a biodiverse outdoor space that can support extended therapeutic and clinical services.

A year ago, this space was an underused area of lawn and a few aging trees. Last fall, we began the transformation by sheet mulching large areas to create garden beds.

On June 25, thirteen Five Counties staff and volunteers planted more than 900 trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials as the next step in the process.

Volunteers plant the Calming Prairie area of the new Therapy Garden at Five Counties Children’s Centre. (Photo by Geneviève Ramage)

Each area in the garden provides different opportunities for therapeutic programming. For example, a prairie-inspired area with Prairie Dropseed, Pale Purple Coneflower, and Mountain Mint, amongst other plants, will invite children to engage all their senses. In another area, clambering up a grassy mound will develop children’s gross motor skills, and give them a different perspective of the garden.

These areas don’t simply provide different therapeutic opportunities. They create distinct microhabitats that support a greater diversity of pollinators and other wildlife over time. The oak, pine, cedar, serviceberries, and redbuds that we’ve planted will maintain the existing canopy as mature trees reach the end of their lives.

As with Depave Paradise, there are many secondary benefits to the project. For staff and volunteers, getting their hands in the dirt can be a form of nature therapy in and of itself.

“It’s been a terrific experience working with GreenUP,” says Scott Pepin, CEO of Five Counties Children’s Centre. “We have a lot in common. Both organizations are about investing in our future. Through demonstration projects like this, GreenUP shows us how we can take climate action in our own backyards to provide a sustainable and vibrant future for today’s youth. At Five Counties, where we provide our kids with therapies and treatment for them to grow and build abilities for life.”

Scott Pepin, CEO of Five Counties Children’s Centre, plants trees, shrubs, and perennials in the new Therapy Garden. (Photo by Geneviève Ramage)

Enhancing ecological functions at any scale

These larger-scale projects are intended as demonstrations for how many smaller actions in our back yards can collectively create a large impact. Urban green spaces can provide ecological and social benefits no matter their size!

For ideas of how you can enhance your green spaces at home, check out GreenUP’s Sustainable Landscaping Guide. Residents of the City of Peterborough can discover our Water Wise program and the City of Peterborough’s Rain Garden Subsidy Program. Residents of Selwyn Township can check out their Rain Ready program.

Depave Paradise is a program of Green Communities Canada, funded by Ontario Trillium Foundation. We want to thank Battlefield Equipment Rentals, Fairview Trucking, Millmaster Custom Sawmill, Mortlock Construction, Scott’s Concrete, and the Township Selwyn for generously donating their time and materials. For questions about Depave Paradise, please contact Hayley Goodchild at hayley.goodchild@greenup.on.ca. For questions about Five Counties Children’s Centre, please visit their website at www.fivecounties.on.ca.

Posted in gardening, Uncategorized, water


Township of Selwyn

Township of Selwyn

Starting in 2021, the Township of Selwyn partnered with GreenUP on several projects, including a Depave Paradise project at Winfield Shores Harbour in Lakefield, School Travel Planning, and a Rain Ready Action Program that offers workshops and a subsidy program to Township residents....

More Info >>

Related Programs

Depave Paradise

Depave Paradise