Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone? They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.
A lot of us are familiar with the Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi. The lyrics decry the loss of trees to make way for a new parking lot outside of a mall. The song drew attention to the loss of nature that communities across the country experience in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Looking across our cities today, you’ll see that this story of paving paradise was all too common. Instead of vibrant and diverse green spaces dotting our urban communities, we have big swaths of hot, barren parking lots, often only partially full if not completely empty.
With all this excess pavement comes a host of environmental problems. Unlike forests and meadows, pavement doesn’t soak up rainwater, creating millions of gallons of stormwater runoff, the largest source of pollution entering Puget Sound. Parking lot runoff tends to be especially toxic because of the oil, tire dust, and other pollutants that cars leave behind while parked. Pavement also absorbs heat, which makes the surrounding neighborhoods warmer. As the Northwest experiences more and more heatwaves, parking lots are making our neighborhoods even more deadlFortunately, parking lots are not forever, and people across Washington are taking action to Depave Puget Sound! This regional effort empowers community members to take direct action by removing unneeded pavement to replace it with a new community green space. Through a partnership with the City of Tacoma, PCD has helped remove pavement across the city since 2014, and we were so excited to be back out hitting the pavement this August in Central Tacoma!
After walking by a usually empty parking lot during the pandemic, community members living around Peck Fields nominated the lot to be Depaved. Metro Parks Tacoma, who owns the parking lot, agreed to take out parts of the lot to replace it with a new rain garden, trees, and pollinator plants. PCD has continued working with Metro and the Central Neighborhood Council to reimagine this space.
With the help of 40 volunteers, we made quick work on the first part of this transformation – within an hour, we removed roughly 3,000 square feet of pavement from this parking lot! We were joined by leaders from the Central Neighborhood Council and several elected officials, including City Councilmember Walker, County Councilmember Mello, and U.S. Congressman Kilmer. It’s always good seeing politicians out at volunteer events! Neighbors who were walking by also stopped to pitch in too. Thank you so much to everyone who joined!
The next step for this project is for the soils to be replaced with healthy compost (being under pavement for decades deprives soil of the nutrients plants need to survive). Then, on October 8th, we’ll be back out at Peck Fields for Green Tacoma Day to plant trees, pollinator plants, and a brand-new rain garden. You don’t want to miss out on the fun! Sign-up here to help us bring back paradise to this parking lot.
And if there’s a piece of excessive pavement in your neighborhood, reach out and nominate the site to be depaved. PCD staff will work with the property owner and City to see if we can depave the site and create a new community green space! Learn more about depaving and how to nominate your site here.