We were greeted by cheerful faces as we arrived in the cold, wet weather for the first depave event at Sheppard Public School. It was a great opportunity for community building while better managing rainwater and creating a beautiful space. News crews came out to document this historic event, the first ever in Waterloo Region. In an effort to to remove under-utilized pavement from urban spaces and replace it with green spaces, Depave Paradise Canada partnered with the environmental charity, Reep Green Solutions to bring the Depave program to Waterloo Region.  Sheppard public school was the first stop!

BEFORE: The area about to be transformed!

The day started with unpacking gear and setting up tables for volunteer registration, first aid and refreshments. The kids ensured that the timbits were distributed fairly and no one was excluded from the sugary treats. A quick team meeting got tasks assigned and positive energy flowing just in time for community members to start arriving. Evergreen provided some nature play activities to occupy the kids while their parents were busy depaving..  As the morning progressed and tasks began, the hot beverages would become essential for motivating community members.

Four work areas were set up for volunteers and their families.  Team 1 was the depavers.  In their steel-toed boots and heavy-duty gloves, they chewed through the pavement in a mere hour and a half filling a whole waste bin with slabs of asphalt.

Team 2 were the diggers.  Like industrious dwarves, they sifted through gravel pulling out the nuggets of tar-coated stones and pavement crumbles. Digging into the sodden ground, buckets and wheelbarrows full of gravelly clay soil was removed to improve drainage in the site.  It was amazing to see these superheroes clear out so much fill, shifting and heaving buckets into the bins.

Beside them Team 3 took up the sod with manual sod cutters to add more space for plants and an area for the students to relax during recess.  Like a plow with a horizontal knife, the sod cutters sliced grass right below the roots allowing strips of grass to be peeled off the soil.  It looked so easy, and then I tried it.  Not so easy!

Team 4 were the queens of the castle. They presided over the three waste bins helping to dump buckets and steer wheelbarrows.  They also ensured that no pavement contaminated the clean fill and no clean fill dirtied the pavement bins. While the parent volunteers did the hard labour, the kids were also hard at work! Setting up natural shelters using sticks and rope they were challenged to be creative and logistical. Volunteers were around to support and discuss the set up while the kids determined the function of their creation. A group of girls set up an entire campground, only missing the marshmallows!


Pizza arrived and everyone was excited to take a break. The energy at the break was high as volunteers chatted and marveled at the progress of the Depave. A hot chocolate refill arrived just in time to warm up the volunteers before getting back to work. Once the pizza was gone, the energy surged as we switched from clearing out the depave site to filling it in with dirt and mulch.  

A mountain of soil and mulch remained, waiting to breathe life back into the newly depaved areas. Parents, children (with their little shovels) and community volunteers got hard to work filling wheelbarrows to complete the job. Some children were more preoccupied with climbing the dirt piles and made for a playful environment amidst the laborious task at hand. Who would be able to fill their wheelbarrows the fastest? A little friendly competition between depavers made the experience all the more cheerful and productive.

Some hours later and after much hard work and determination, the never-ending pile of soil seemed to be finally clearing. A couple more hours passed and after countless mulch-filled wheelbarrow trips, the depaved areas began to resemble the precursor of a lively green space more and more.

By 5pm, the tasks were complete, and volunteers were finally able to marvel at the fruits of their labour, making the entire experience well-worth the end results.  Overall, the depave as a community building event was a success! Volunteers, young and young at heart, all engaged with one another to complete the project which would beautify the school yard, keep the area cool in summer, add shade, manage stormwater runoff and countless other benefits. Knowing all this, even with the gloomy weather there was a ray of sunshine at Sheppard Public school!  


Depave in the News!

Students plant trees at former paved playground – CTV Kitchener

Transforming asphalt into a green play space – CTV Kitchener

‘Schlepping wet dirt’ key to environmental renewal in Waterloo Region – The Record


By: Heather McDiarmid, Pamela Kisun, Jamylynn McDonald

Photography: Christine Tan


after depave render

What’s a ‘depave’? Learn more about the project!

Join Reep Green Solutions and Sheppard Public School Parent Council as we transform an underused area of tarmac into a naturalized play space!  During the workday, we will work together to:

–  Remove remaining tarmac and associated gravel sublayer

–  Fill in the new space with healthy soil and mulch to prepare for Sheppard classes to subsequently plant trees and shrubs

– Clean up the Natural Area (prune shrubs, rake leaves, etc)

– *New* ‘Kids’ activities provided by Evergreen’s Neighbourhood Nature Play program

Refreshments and lunch will be available at the event but please bring a water bottle to stay hydrated. Dress according to the weather and be prepared to get dirty. We recommend long pants and closed toe shoes (bring steel toed shoes if able, toe caps will be provided). Families are welcomed to join, activities available for all ages.

Date/Time: Sunday, October 28, 10am – 2pm
Location: Sheppard Public School ( 278 Weber St E, Kitchener, ON N2H 1G2) 
Registration: Free
Refreshments + lunch provided


All Day | Natural Area Clean Up

10am – 12pm | Remove Tarmac + Gravel .

12pm – 2pm | Soil + Mulching


Logo for Ontario Trillium Foundation, Depave Paradise and Green Communities Canada



Depave Paradise (a program of Reep Green Solutions) will lead the community in transforming asphalt-covered areas of Sheppard Public School into a dynamic naturalized play space.

Kitchener, ON. On Sunday October 28, the Sheppard Public School community, with partners Reep Green Solutions and Green Communities Canada, will tear up unused pavement and create a naturalized green space for the children of Sheppard Public School. The project will capture rainwater, beautify our community, and showcase a more sustainable way to managed stormwater in urban areas through a program called Depave Paradise. This Depave project is part of an exciting new trend of neighbourhood workbees that renew underutilized, hard urban spaces.

Participants will liberate this area from asphalt and reclaim the space for nature play, creating the first ever ‘depave’ site in Waterloo region. “Hard surfaces, such as driveways, parking lots and buildings interrupt the natural water cycle by preventing rain water from soaking into the ground, thus creating heat island effects, and warming up our cities. By removing pavement and replacing it with native plants, trees and shrubs we are increasing the infiltration rate, recharging our groundwater supply, and cooling the schoolyard,” Becca Robinson, Landscape Designer for Reep Green Solutions explains.

Based on consultation with students and staff at Sheppard Public School, including a ‘Shade Audit’ by the Waterloo Region Public Health and in-class design workshops, the new play space will include native trees and shrubs to provide shade for students and natural objects, such as stumps, logs, and a naturalized ground surface that will absorb more stormwater runoff and reduce the heat radiating off of the play surface during hot days.

Stormwater is the rain or snow that falls on cities and towns and eventually washes into our storm drains. Along the way it picks up a host of toxic chemicals, bacteria, and contaminants like oil, grease, pet waste, litter and salt. These things mix with the water that then proceeds to flow through our drains, untreated, back into rivers and lakes.

“The hands-on depaving process and subsequent tree plantings capture the hearts and energies of our school community, working together to make our school yard healthier for both the environment and students. We are excited to demonstrate to others the power to make positive change when individuals act together,” said Christy Webster, Principal of Sheppard Public School.

Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is one of Canada’s largest granting foundations. With a budget of over $136 million, OTF awards grants to some 1,000 projects every year to build healthy and vibrant Ontario communities. With additional community support and a grant provided by OTF and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, this Depave Paradise project at Sheppard Public School will encourage greener infrastructure in Waterloo Region and showcase the power of community mobilization for a greener future.

Depave Event Registration


Reep Green Solutions is an environmental charity based in the Waterloo Region committed to helping people live sustainably. Reep offers home energy, waste reduction, water conservation and healthy yards services. You may also contact Donnique Williams, [email protected], 519-744-6583 ext. 222, for additional comments.



Sheppard Public School staff, students, and Parent Council are working together with Reep Green Solutions to DEPAVE an underutilized area of tarmac and transform it into a dynamic naturalized play space! On Sunday, October 28 at 10am volunteers from the school and surrounding community will work together to liberate the ground from tarmac and gravel subsurface and install healthier soil and mulch in its place to kick-off the tarmac makeover.


before depave Sheppard public school


after depave render

Afterwards, we will be working with students and Parent Council to install:

  1. Native trees and shrubs to provide shade for students and a buffer between the tarmac and the teacher’s parking lot.
  2. Natural objects, like boulders and logs, and a mud table
  3. A naturalized ground surface that will absorb more stormwater runoff and reduce the heat radiating off of the play surface during hot days.


mud table

Hahn Plastics Canada















The plans for this area were developed after consultation with students and staff and design workshops with Grade 5 and 6 classes in the spring that illuminated some of the problems with the status quo. Our proposed solution will help absorb rain (reducing mud problems) and provide shade in an otherwise hot play area.







We’ve partnered with Waterloo Public Health to look at the need for shade in the schoolyard, and sampled temperatures on various surfaces, such as the tarmac, the “kindy area” and the “natural area”.  On a hot day, typical for the beginning and end of the school year, there was sometimes a 15C° difference between the black tarmac and a softer surface material like wood chips!  We want to create more shady and cool play surfaces for our kids as extreme temperatures and high UV warnings are becoming more prevalent.









Interested in being part of this makeover?

    • Register for the event to rip out tarmac and place soil
    • DONATE!
    • We are seeking in-kind donations of tarmac saw cutting, provision of a disposal bin, soil, mulch, pry bars, trees and shrubs, and food and refreshments.  Contact [email protected] if you can help.
    • Parent Council is still raising money to purchase additional challenging obstacles like a log jam climbing structure.  Contact [email protected] if you are interested in donating towards this.

Eventbrite - Depave Paradise at Sheppard Public School


Upcoming Events

  1. Finding a Perfect Match: Right Tree for the Right Place

    July 25 | 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm
  2. Fruit Trees for Beginners

    August 20 | 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
  3. FRESH AIR FEAST: 20th Anniversary Community Celebration

    September 14 | 11:00 am - 2:00 pm