London’s Depave Paradise to turn more asphalt to green space this spring


A community group that’s working to dig up pavement in the region and convert it into green space is expanding this spring with two new sites in London and St. Thomas. They’re thinking big, aiming to bring native plants back to the area while keeping the region’s rivers clean.

London Environmental Network’s Depave Paradise program plans to take on Horton Farmers’ Market in St. Thomas and a public school in London this June, aiming to dig up at least 180 square meters of asphalt total and turn it into naturalized land.  

“It’s important because it adds green infrastructure to the community,” said London Environmental Network’s executive director, Skylar Franke.

The converted Depave Paradise courtyard at Fanshawe College. Two more sites will be converted this year in London and St. Thomas. (Submitted by London Environmental Network)

By replacing sheets of pavement with native trees and plants, and using permeable materials, it’ll prevent storm water from being contaminated on asphalt surfaces and running into the Thames River. 

This will also help with pollination in the area and curb flooding, he said. 

“As many people know, London regularly floods because of excess water that ends up in the Thames,” said Franke. “And by taking away asphalt, and replacing it with trees and plants, it’s an excellent way to keep water on land.” 

Building community

Taylor explained that they not only aspire to make the region more green, but they’re building community, too. 

“It gets the volunteers out to work on a project in their community,” he said. “So it kind of builds that strength and interest in the environment.”

Cole Taylor with London Environmental Network explained that the program isn’t just about cleaning up the city’s rivers, but also about building community. (Submitted by London Environmental Network)

He said that the environmental impact of converting 100 square meters isn’t significant on its own, but it’s about sharing knowledge by way of community engagement and “getting people to know how they can make their own improvements.” 

“We kind of plant the seed, we give them the ideas, it gets them out, it gets them involved,” he said. “They meet their neighbours and they get to volunteer in their community and make a difference that they can see. And then they can kind of take that knowledge, they can do their own projects at home or somewhere else that they know.”

Depave Paradise launched last year with the conversion of a courtyard at Fanshawe College. The group dug up 118 square meters of asphalt, and planted two trees and 156 plants in its place. They also laid down permeable pavement.  

“It’s important to have [these projects] in areas … where the everyday public sees them so that they’re starting to question how much pavement we do have in our urban environments,” said Corinne Wilmink, a professor with the faculty of environmental design and planning at Fanshawe College. She volunteered last year.

“Being part of the build, and the number of volunteers that came out for the demolition day as well as the build day was really inspiring,” she said.

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