Mini but Mighty: Creating Pockets of Paradise in Downtown Peterborough

September 11th, 2019

By Dawn Pond, GreenUP’s Downtown Vibrancy Project and Depave Paradise Program Coordinator

GreenUP’s Depave Paradise Program has been busy this summer creating a new garden at Euphoria Wellness Spa in partnership with the Downtown Vibrancy Project. We are not yet winding down for winter, though. We have another exciting Depave Paradise project coming up this October that is going to transform small pockets of downtown into green spaces.

Photo: The Engage Engineering team lifting asphalt with gusto in preparation for creating a new garden outside Euphoria Wellness Spa in downtown Peterborough. Photo by Ben Hargreaves for GreenUP

Depave Paradise removes underused areas of pavement and replaces them with green spaces. This increases the permeability of the ground and allows water to naturally trickle through the soil instead of running over the top of hard surfaces. When water can soak through the soil like this, less litter and pollution wash into our water system. Research shows that the addition of green space to urban spaces reduces the chance of flooding by up to 50%, depending on the size and location of the garden.

When you hear people talking about the benefits of green spaces in cities you might assume we are only talking about large areas like Del Crary Park or Jackson Park. Large green spaces like municipal parks are crucial in a city like Peterborough, but even small spaces can help reduce flooding and protect our water from pollution.

Photo: On a beautiful midsummer’s evening, the GreenUP Depave Paradise team joined forces with local residents, families, and members of the Alderville Black Oak Savanna to transform a paved area outside Euphoria Wellness Spa in downtown Peterborough into a rain garden. Photo by Ben Hargreaves for GreenUP

GreenUP has completed five Depave Paradise projects in Peterborough so far. Most of these projects are over 100 square metres. A garden of this size is not always realistic for downtown locations with limited space, but limited space shouldn’t mean no green space. With that in mind, this fall we will make the most of our urban spaces. We will split the usual 100 square metres worth of depave area to create three “pocket park” projects.

Small pocket parks and gardens are becoming popular, especially in large cities. A pocket park is a small area of recreational, green space built into a larger urban area dominated by hard surfaces and city infrastructure. These pocket parks have the potential to create rich ecological and community spaces in dense urban centres where large city parks may be few and far between.

There are some beautiful examples of pocket parks from San Diego’s Better Streets Project and the Industry City project in New York by Terrain NYC. An example closer to home is in downtown Toronto. The Wellesley-Magill Park was designed by Cornelia Oberlander and created in 2002. This park is located on the site of the demolished Wellesley Central Hospital.

Oberlander is a decorated landscaper designer and she has written many times about the importance of utilizing urban spaces to create sustainable landscapes. “Space is at a premium in our urban areas,” Oberlander observed in a 1996 article, “and the time has come for a full assessment of the uses of our open spaces.”

You can visit a pocket park right here in Peterborough in the garden behind Black Honey Cafe. This green space is a publicly-accessible park that has many great sitting rocks nestled under shade trees. It is a lovely gathering place.

The new pocket parks that will be added to downtown Peterborough this fall will bring more diverse, animated spaces to the downtown. There will be a variety of features in these three Depave Paradise projects, including a living fence, public seating areas, permeable paving, and medicine gardens. These spaces will inject vibrant and interactive features into areas that are otherwise rather utilitarian or underutilized.

Depave Paradise projects are created by community volunteers, either as corporate teams or individuals. Volunteering with the depave portion of the project builds incredible social connections, while also replacing your daily gym workout with a fun opportunity to get your hands dirty. The planting portion of the project is a great opportunity for families and gardeners to join together to create a shared memory that will be associated with a vibrant new space in our city. If you’d like to volunteer with us to create these gardens, email Dawn Pond at dawn.pond@greenup.on.ca for more details.

In partnership with the Downtown Vibrancy Project, GreenUP’s Depave Paradise Program has been creating a series of green spaces in downtown Peterborough. This Program will continue with another large-scale project next year. The Downtown Vibrancy Project is led by the Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) in partnership with GreenUP, and is supported by many local businesses and organizations, including Mortlock Construction, Engage Engineering, Lett Architects, Coco Paving, Accurex, Basterfield and Associates, the City of Peterborough, Tree House Timberworks, Wilson Brothers Construction, and many more. The Depave Paradise Program is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Photo: Depave Paradise volunteers plan the placement of plants in the new garden outside Euphoria Wellness Spa in downtown Peterborough. Photo by Ben Hargreaves for GreenUP

The project is always looking for additional support to help increase our impact. If you are interested in supporting the project by donating services or providing sponsorship please email Dawn Pond (dawn.pond@greenup.on.ca) for more details.

Photo: Volunteers of all ages got involved with the GreenUP Depave Paradise project, creating shared memories and a shared community green space outside Euphoria Wellness Spa in downtown Peterborough. Photo by Ben Hargreaves for GreenUP

Posted in Peterborough, water


City of Peterborough

City of Peterborough

Ontario Trillium Foundation

Ontario Trillium Foundation

Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area

Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area