Volunteers dislodge slabs of pavement from the parking lot at Ascension Parish in Southeast Portland.  (Courtesy Depave)
Volunteers dislodge slabs of pavement from the parking lot at Ascension Parish in Southeast Portland. (Courtesy Depave)
A few years ago, the water bills soared at Ascension Parish in Southeast Portland. Sharon Grigar, longtime pastoral associate, invited City of Portland staff to inspect the buildings and grounds and see how the parish could reduce usage.

One of the city workers, who also volunteers with an organization that removes pavement, explained options for taking some blacktop from the parking lot. He said it’s an environmentally-friendly move that reduces water runoff, provides spaces for swales and a home for native trees and plants.

The parish kept the plan on hold until Sept. 9, when more than 100 parish volunteers and a crew from the organization Depave pulled out 3,200 square feet of pavement. Depave workers say the project got done in fewer than two hours, which is record time. The parish volunteers, plus visitors from neighboring St. Ignatius Parish, get the credit.

Pavement is cut into rectangles that can be handled, pried out and tossed into dumpsters. To help the labor, a band played live music and volunteers prepared a luncheon feast.

“It was actually fun and it was a wonderful event that brought our community together to work for a positive change,” said Grigar.

Depave then prepared the newly uncovered soil and had local plants delivered. On Nov. 11, more than 50 volunteers convened to plant. Again, because of the big turnout, the project took only 45 minutes.

Grigar says the number of parking spaces will be the same after restriping, since the previous spaces were oversized.

“Depave walked us through the entire process, procuring grant funds and helping us get organized,” Grigar said, giving special praise to Danny Kapsch, secretary of the board for Depave and a storm water professional for the City of Portland for more than a decade.

“The results are beautiful, and we are looking forward to the planting of trees next month and the shade and green space they will provide,” Grigar said.