Save Paradise and Put Up a Permeable Parking Lot
Huron Natural Area is a 107-hectare site that is home to one of Kitchener’s few coldwater streams and some sensitive wetlands. People in the community gather to hike the extensive trail system, photograph wildlife and relax in the woods. Children learn to connect with nature through interpretive programming and play in the natural playscape.
Because of Huron Natural Area’s popularity, there was a demand for more parking. The problem with adding hard surfaces such as parking lots is that they can disrupt the natural water cycle by preventing rain from soaking into the ground. Matt Wilson, Design and Construction Project Manager at the City of Kitchener’s Stormwater Utility, saw the problem as an opportunity to test some innovative technology. Matt proposed constructing the parking lot with permeable pavement in order to prevent negative impacts to the natural area and wetlands.
Permeable pavers are specially designed to allow rain and melted snow to pass through the gaps between the pavers (bricks). But the real key is in the stone reservoir underneath the pavers. Water is temporarily stored in the reservoir before slowly percolating into the ground. Naturally occurring micro-organisms in the reservoir help to break down hydrocarbons and other pollutants coming from vehicles. Rainwater absorbed from the permeable parking lot then travels underground through the soil further filtering and cleaning the rainwater so that only clean water is released back to the wetlands and streams in the park.
Helped with a grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Matt and his colleagues at the city will be monitoring the site for water quantity and quality to determine its effectiveness and evaluate whether permeable pavers are a feasible solution for other municipal projects.