Reversing Complete Streets disparities: Portland’s Community Watershed Stewardship Program
For a decade, Pacific Northwest rains regularly flooded St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Portland, Oregon. Even after spending several thousand dollars in an attempt to repair the dry-well system in the parking lot, the small, immigrantled congregation had to use sandbags and pumps to keep stormwater out of its converted warehouse church. Out of money, St. Mary decided to pursue a different approach. After months of planning and preparation, dozens of volunteers arrived on a sunny Saturday morning in summer 2013 with jackhammers, crowbars, shovels, and gloves. The volunteers worked with church members to remove 1,500 square feet of asphalt from the church’s parking lot, “depaving” the way for a bioswale, a vegetated stormwater drain. After a contractor excavated the area and brought in new soil, volunteers returned to add hundreds of native plants that would soak up the parking lot’s runoff and prevent future flooding. Time will tell, but church leaders report that the building has so far stayed dry after heavy fall rains.