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Prying up the pavement at Lewis Elementary School

by: ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - John Ballard (wearing backwards baseball cap) does some heavy lifting, aided by other parents, during Lewis Schools September 14th morning of de-paving blacktop to make room for a new garden.  Ballard and his wife Gina, who is Lewis PTA Co-President,  have two children at the school, and regularly join dozens of parent volunteers to make large events such as this one a success. Sweating, panting, and prying loose huge chunks of pavement, dozens of volunteers labored on the cool and overcast Saturday morning of September 14th at Lewis Elementary School in Woodstock.

It was the first project of the nonprofit Depave organization at the school – and parents, students, teachers, staff, Depave volunteers, and other community members all brought lots of energy to it. While the degree of hard labor seemed to take some parents by surprise, it didn’t slacken their effort.

“It’s pretty exciting, and pretty back-breaking too,” commented parent Mark Rosenkranz, whose face, like those of other volunteers, was smudged with a thin film of dust and sweat.

“It was hard to imagine what this would be like, but it amounts to a lot of heavy lifting and hard work,” added parent Sarah Gibson.

The goal of the day was to de-pave a large area of playground just east of the primary grade classrooms.

“The largest de-paved area will be developed into a rain garden, to help provide better rain infiltration from blacktop runoff,” explained Kathleen Witter, Lewis Garden/Volunteer Coordinator. “In the past, when it rained, part of that blacktop area became a big puddle. The smaller de-paved area will allow us to build two raised beds outside of our kindergarten classrooms.” In mid-October the school plans a planting party for the two areas of de-paved surface, which totaled 2,000 square feet.

Taking a moment from prying up a large slab of asphalt, fourth grade teacher Paul Colvin beamed, “It’s a huge community-building activity, because it gets staff, parents, kids, and former Lewis parents involved.”

Courtney Cronk, parent of a third-grader, was equally enthusiastic about the volunteer involvement. “It’s impressive that we get the number of parent volunteers that we do on a Saturday before and after soccer, who work hard to beautify the school. It really does ‘take a village’ to make Lewis School as special as it is.”

The nonprofit, volunteer-based “Depave” has been removing impervious surfaces of concrete and asphalt since 2007. Throughout the city, areas of parking lots and playgrounds have been removed to make way for bio-swales and gardens that benefit the environment.

For more information on the work of “Depave” go online to: HYPERLINK "www.depave.org" www.depave.org – meantime, the Lewis School website has posted photos of its September de-paving project: HYPERLINK "www.lewiselementary.org" www.lewiselementary.org