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

Urquhart Butterfly Garden speaker series

A lovely butterfly garden is the perfect setting for this annual speaker series. August 4, 2018, Guest speaker: Doreen Nicoll You cannot have Monarch Butterflies without milkweed.  Doreen Nicoll has recently become a heroine for monarch butterflies, by insisting on her rights to grow milkweed in her naturalized garden in Burlington. Doreen  Nicoll has long understood that garden with nature and not against her is the best thing for our planet. She also knows that native plants are great at attracting butterflies and bees of all species. Doreen will be the first presenter in the Summer Series at the Urquhart Butterfly Garden and her topic will be Monarchs and Their Milkweed and naturalized gardening. She has wealth of information and is fun as well! The session will begin at 11 am Saturday on August 4 and last approximately one hour.  Please bring a chair. If it rains the session will be cancelled. For more information about the Urquhart Butterfly Garden please visit ur

stepping up the battle for trails

I share the columnist's (see below) angst about some of the trail closures in Cootes Paradise and the observation that the impacts of walking on habitat are less damaging than driving. Nevertheless, I can appreciate that some of the trails can and should be closed to preserve sensitive habitat. It is because Cootes is surrounded by a city that the impacts of both cars and yes, even feet, can cumulatively degrade the integrity of this nature sanctuary. Blocking trails with bushes generally seems to occur on "unofficial" trails, though I have   previously expressed my concern with closing trails that once provided access through Cootes to hook up with the Spencer Creek Trail in Dundas. The utility of a trail as a path to someplace, rather than just a recreational loop, means a lot to me , and I have hoped the RBG would reconsider the trails layout with this in mind. Again, with so many people accessing Cootes, on foot and on mountain-bikes, the threat

Turtle Watching: Volunteers Needed

By fragmenting the western end of Cootes Paradise with a four lane highway (Cootes Drive 1936) and McMaster parking (1969), car drivers gain at the expense of intact habitat for a multitude of species. Road kill on Cootes accounts for a severe threat to the survival of at risk species, and perhaps none so glaringly as the slow moving turtles who inhabit the remnant marsh. Turtle, south of Cootes Drive near Spencer Creek. Photo r.k . A local volunteer group has, for the last few years, formed to assist the turtles and increase awareness, and (hopefully) survival rates.  Please consider giving some of your time to the turtles of Cootes Paradise. April 2012 Turtles will begin to move from their wintering sites in late May and their peak nesting period is mid-June. Dundas Turtle Watch identifies, monitors and rescues turtles at risk from traffic, and protects nests from predation wherever possible.  The group  is  looking for people with a digital camera  who are  prepa