Skip to main content

Parking to Paradise: Retrofitting a Parking Lot to Increase Sustainability

Guest blogger: Reyna Matties 


Urbanization displaces and degrades ecosystems that are critical for humans, animals, and plants. Sustainable urban development has become a priority in the challenge to re-design our ageing infrastructure. Working to coexist peacefully with the surrounding environment will increase sustainability. As a graduate student of Biology at McMaster University, I am studying the applied ecology and hydrology of a parking lot system (Lot M). Ancaster Creek, a rare cold-water ecosystem, runs along Lot M and is part of an essential wildlife corridor for native species such as salmon, turtle, and deer. Together with Dr. Susan Dudley, I am working to retrofit the stormwater management of the system to minimize the impact of contaminants and runoff into the creek.

One method of achieving this goal is through increasing and restoring the land next to the creek. This is called a riparian buffer, which protects the system by providing habitat for animals, increasing stormwater infiltration, and allowing plants and soil to break down and store contaminants.

Urban riparian buffers risk degradation from surrounding development. Ancaster Creek runs 34km from Hamilton's escarpment in the south, towards Lake Ontario in the north. In 1968, when McMaster University created Lot M, riparian buffer importance was not yet fully understood. The parking lot design left a small 10 metre buffer and prioritized a fast removal of stormwater. Warm, contaminated water flowed directly into the creek. Advocacy and partnerships have created awareness and an opportunity for restoration and retrofitting. Partial mitigation of parking lot effects on Ancaster Creek has begun in 2014. McMaster widened the creek's riparian buffer to 30m. Native species were planted, and turtle habitat was created.


Scenes from Lot M
Follow this link for more images from Lot M rehabilitation

Green Infrastructure works to build with nature in urban environments. Examples include a rain garden, riparian buffer, green roof, or bioswale. Stormwater quality and quantity can be improved at Lot M by implementing these designs . I am researching three hydrology and ecology related questions to guide my design and construction of a trial bioswale:

  • How does soil moisture and salinity (road salt) vary on the new riparian buffer? 
  • How does the buffer soil salinity impact plant growth on the buffer? 
  • How does runoff vary over the parking lot area? 

The public nature of the parking lot provides the opportunity for me to promote ecosystem restoration and sustainability. I do educational hikes, design interpretive signage, and provide content to courses. My research will advance restoration science in an urban context. McMaster University can use the research findings for adaptive management and future retrofits to Lot M.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Taking a different direction to protect turtles in Cootes

Here's an easy thing you can do that will benefit at local risk-turtles immediately. It's as simple as taking a different route to bypass Cootes and Olympic Drive. This small choice will mean turtles and other wildlife in Cootes Paradise will have a better chance of surviving from being crushed under your vehicle tires.

Take the pledge: http://bit.ly/ProtectTurtlesCootes
Often you might not even be aware you've hit a young turtle, or a snake, for example, yet in the case of turtles, each death means this at-risk group is one death closer to extirpation. Turtles take a long time to reach maturity, and most hatchlings never make it to adulthood so you can see the dilemma.

Please take a minute to pledge your commitment to use an alternate route, and help Restore Cootes and other groups do their part to protect our reptile friends. A previous survey showed that 70% of respondents would do this for the turtles. Hopefully you will join them!

Thanks in advance for your support!


Loa…

The Social Sciences Take on Lot M!

Guest Blogger: Carly Stephens 
Since its inception, Parking to Paradise has been a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration. Many readers are familiar with the Ancaster Creek riparian buffer and restoration work along the Northwest border of the parking lot. Interested parties across many faculties and disciplines have worked together to restore this ecosystem and raise awareness about the impacts urbanization on the natural environment. Nurtured by the time, commitment and hard work donated by volunteers and students, the land has grown into a site of green infrastructure, ecosystem restoration, and sustainable development. Read about Reyna Matties' Master’s work on retrofitting storm water management systems on the lot in the December 7, 2015 post below. Now, it’s the social sciences turn to learn where green infrastructure developments - as with the case of Lot M - fits into our social world.

My research involves exploring the various roles that green space plays in our urb…

Coldspring Valley History Hike: Water Innovation Week

We're heading back out to share the history of this former floodplain/nature sanctuary, and take a look at the rehabilitated future of this contested site in McMaster's west campus. Can we really depave Paradise? It's happening!

Register on Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/waterweekwalk2017 (by donation)