Latest Depave Project Boasts Environmental, Community, Cultural Benefits

‘Seeing this site go from an inert space to a lively one has been really fun’

Creating a life-giving space for plants, the environment, the community and culture has been rewarding for the project’s organizer and citizens alike.

Dawn Pond, co-ordinator for the Downtown Vibrancy Project and Depave Paradise at GreenUP, reflects with Electric City Magazine on the latest de-pave endeavor that transformed a corner downtown into a garden with native plants, places to sit and eventually artwork to enjoy. The pocket park, located at King and Water streets, is called Jiimaan’ndewemgadnong.

“Seeing this site go from an inert space to a lively one has been really fun,” Dawn says.

The contrast between what existed before and what’s there now is dramatic. “For me, the most significant difference that we can see is the making of a place.”

It’s a spot where people can sit and enjoy the gardens and city views. It’s inhabited by wildlife and pollinators, which were drawn to the area soon after the planting occurred. The garden offers many native flowers as pollinator food sources and the shrubs and grasses provide shelter and nesting material for birds and small mammals.

Dawn says there is also the less visible, but equally as important, change in water movement in the area. Water can now flow into and through the space’s rain garden feature, soaking slowly through the soil naturally instead of being directed to the Otonabee River through storm waterways.

“These urban water pathways do not filter the water of pollution as well as soil does. Green space like the garden at Jiimaan’ndewemgadnong can prevent urban pollution from reaching the river,” she explains.

Jiimaan’ndewemgadnong was the name chosen by citizens who attended the project’s design sessions last winter. The name means “The Place Where the Canoe Heart Beats,” which was translated by Mary Taylor and Jack Hoggarth both of Curve Lake First Nation.

In time, the space will showcase canoe art.

“The significance of the canoe in this area spans across many cultures including that of the Mizi-Zaagiing Anishinaabe and the Settler peoples and was most likely a result of the geographic characteristics of the area, from the vast wetlands to the many lakes.

“The canoe may mean different things to all of us but it seems to have significance in the lives of many people. This project has been vessel for celebrating both our differences and our common experiences.”

The artwork will include two pieces. The first one is a 15-foot chestnut cedar canoe that has been restored and painted. Meanwhile, the second piece, will be a vinyl wrap design on the exterior of the green transformer box that is located in the centre of the Jiimaan’ndewemgadnong garden.

Both of these art pieces will be installed in the spring of 2020 and have been created by Tia Cavanagh, a local Anishinaabe artist.

When asked how Dawn foresees both the community and environment benefitting from this newest addition to the city, she says the perks are already emerging.

“I started to see the community benefits as soon as we broke ground on the project as the asphalt was pried up by the hands of volunteers. The volunteers who de-paved and planted the gardens have told me how much fun they had having a helping hand in transforming the space.

“These community benefits continue as people sit in the garden on the benches or glance at the flowers as they walk by. The garden will continue to grow and flourish into an established garden that will only bring more joy in years to come.”

The design of the rain garden puts the environment at the forefront. The swale, which is the river rock strip running through the garden, allows water to collect between the rocks and filter slowly through the soil. This feeds the plants and also removes pollutants before they reach the waterways.

The garden contains many native species that make up the black oak savanna plant community including, New Jersey tea, hoary vervain, big bluestem grass and many more.

The black oak savanna is a traditional plant community that is characterized by oak trees and a rich grassland understory. It is found in the area and now a small piece has been restored in the new urban space.

Concept designs were created and donated by Michael Gallant at Lett Architects.

Related Story:

Pocket Parks ‘Good for Our Health’, Have Social Benefits


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