An Inner Southeast man, choosing 'pavers' for the place he parks his car, finds the work well worth the effort

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Khang Nguyen patiently dug dirt and placed blocks of open face pavers to creatively engineer a level area next to his driveway, displayed here. Now his van can be parked there, and not have rain wash oil and other pollutants to the street, and eventually into the river. There are a couple of blocks near Westmoreland Park where the Portland Bureau of Transportation experimented with paving the street with "permeable pavers", to let rainwater drain into the ground under the street instead of adding to the runoff in the city sewer system. The idea seemed to work; the two blocks of demonstration paving are still there, but PBOT does not seem to have decided to expand this environmental method of paving streets at this time.

However, the idea is far from dead, and various private driveways in Southeast are paved that way. And now a resident of the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood has used the idea to solve a problem: Khang Nguyen already had a conventional driveway, but now there is a second space beside it finished in permanent "open face" pavers, which he himself has patiently and creatively applied to what had been a part of his yard.

"Our section of S.E. 62nd is very narrow, and with our new van being gigantic, I worried about it getting sideswiped — and also being cumbersome to other drivers if parked on the street. That area of our front yard was also a bit of an eyesore, so this provided an esthetic and functional solution," he explained to THE BEE. .

A thirty-three year old engineer who was involved in volunteer environmental activities during his senior year at OSU, Nguyen still cares a lot about the environment, and says he feels joy when being creative.

"We [he and his wife] chose to do the open-face pavers for environmental reasons. The pavers allow for the rainwater to fall directly into the ground, vs. collecting oil and other chemicals on its way down the curb to the storm water system."

The process of setting the pavers in place, in an area 19 by 10 feet, took about three months. "I knew I could do the pavers myself, and it was easy to stop the project and come back to it when I had time — whereas other methods [like concrete, or asphalt] would not necessarily allow that."

As an OHSU employee in construction engineering management, Nguyen's free time is limited, but he did the work over last summer, laying the blocks of pavers that he had purchased at Mutual Materials in Clackamas.

The process involved digging into the dirt down to a depth of 8-½ inches and laying 4 inches of pea gravel and up to an inch of sand on top of that. The blocks of pavers, each approximately 24 inches by 16 inches, and 3-½ inches thick, were set into place — all the while keeping the paver blocks level with each other.

At the end of three months, with the new area finished, he said he felt "triumphant".

"I knew it was a big project, but I didn't fully grasp how much dirt I would have to move. I probably shoveled and wheel-barrowed 60 to 80 trips of dirt to the backyard and side yard."

He says the best part was knowing there wasn't any hurry to get it finished. So he fully enjoyed the project and was able to be patient with the intricacies of the process, spending 30 minutes to a few hours at a time. "I initially told my wife it's going to take about three weekends, and it ended up being three months!"

However, the completed project is another example of how to mitigate harm to the environment by laying open-face pavers instead of pouring concrete, asphalt, or pavers that are not permeable. He still has plans to lay a few blocks of pavers for a path to his backyard, but he's waiting for better weather to do it.

Nguyen has planted some tufts of different mosses at the edges of his "paver parking pad", and has sown wildflower seeds over the pavers. He expects that flowers will sprout up in the dirt areas this spring.

You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.

Have a thought or opinion on the news of the day? Get on your soapbox and share your opinions with the world. Send us a Letter to the Editor!