New Public Green Space in Puget Sound

The Portland-based organization, Depave, recruits and trains community members to safely remove pavement and create new public green space. Depave has removed more than 123,000 square feet of pavement with the help of over 2,250 volunteers from various Portland communities. As a result of this work, each year more than 2.875 million gallons of rainwater is diverted from the over-burdened storm drain system and infiltrated into soils to sustain urban trees, community gardens, and more than 40 community green spaces.  River Network approached the group to jointly develop a test project in the Puget Sound area of Washington to expand this success.

River Network raised funds from The Russell Family Foundation to pilot an export of the Depave model to Puget Sound. The purpose of the project was to work with local partners and build community support to expand Depave’s success in a new region in a way that addressed local needs.

River Network first established a partnership with Depave and then sought the involvement of Stewardship Partners, a regional group that had a complementary green infrastructure program with Washington State University Extension. Their existing project list and relationships in the Puyallup River watershed were both significant and valuable to this project. In the course of applying for additional local funds, the project team also connected with Pierce Conservation District (PCD), another entity with similar goals and great enthusiasm about the Depave model. PCD became the defacto on-the-ground project lead during the course of the first year of the project.

Together, the team updated and tailored outreach materials for use in Puget Sound communities, identified several potential projects, worked with the city representatives to address regulatory issues, and worked with the community partners to recruit volunteers and address long term maintenance requirements. River Network’s role during the project included management of the project team and finances, ensuring project advancement to meet grant commitments, and on the ground support at events. In March 2014, working closely with the City of Tacoma and other local groups, the team successfully completed its first Depave and planting events to free the soil in the North Slope neighborhood of Tacoma.

Progress to date includes:

  • Four Depave events have now been completed in Tacoma and Puyallup.
  • New strategies and best practices are emerging with the leadership of PCD, specific to south Puget Sound.
  • A coalition of groups interested in green infrastructure in Puget Sound have come together to develop a Depave Puget Sound program. They are pursuing their first coordinated grant and River Network has offered support to the grant and the association as it moves forward.
  • River Network has continued to promote the Depave model nationally through River Rally and stormwater-related work. Conversations about establishing a Depave program in other locations are taking place.
  • Depave (with River Network’s assistance) has developed a legal and financial framework for providing training and resources to groups across the country who wish to develop their own Depave program.  Depave is now effectively fostering long-term stewardship and watershed knowledge among individuals and groups in multiple communities.

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