In the mid-1990s, the school actually won an “Ugliest Schoolyard” contest, which gave them prize money with which to plant a few trees.
Some pavement is needed near the front gate in order to allow access for emergency vehicles, but the pavement wraps around to parts of the yard where vehicles will never go. Even the outside of the perimeter fence is paved, preventing flowers and plants from sprouting there.
In consultation with students, the schoolboard, Ecology Ottawa, Evergreen and the landscape architect, it was decided to apply the Depave Paradise grant toward several different parts of the yard.
Next to the school, a dip in the pavement creates what the students call “Lake St. Anthony”, so named because it fills with water every time it rains. Here, we dug two raingardens and planted them with blue violets.
In three other areas, the borders of the central tree grove were expanded and planted with dogwood trees, while the top of the yard received a gourd-shaped planted space for native thyme and mint.
Each St. Anthony student enthusiastically planted one of the approximately 130 plants we put in the ground. The project will accomplish three things:
- It will reduce the amount of stormwater that overflows into the city’s sewer system
- It will reduce the number of injuries from students falling on unyielding pavement
- It will cool the temperature of the yard, as less heat will be absorbed by black pavement
In total, the project replaced nearly 100 square meters of asphalt. Already, Lake St. Anthony has disappeared. And by the spring the native flowers, trees and shrubs will be thriving.
Depave Paradise projects are now taking place at churches, schools and other urban spaces across the country. The project provides a great opportunity for communities to take ownership over a green solution.
The plants and flowers were selected for their ability to thrive in wet conditions and to withstand being frequently trampled. They should even survive the occasional basketball. In the spring, they will begin to bloom, and St. Anthony’s schoolyard will be that much greener.