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Depaving Downtown: Trees Replace Asphalt In Effort To Reduce Urban Heat

It’s a breezy Saturday morning in the parking lot near Fresh Start Grower’s Supply near downtown Louisville.

About two dozen volunteers are tearing out a section of concrete and asphalt to make room for some trees.

Depave Project Coordinator Valerie Magnuson is organizing the effort; the first of its kind in the city.

“We are in desperate need of trees to shade out these surface parking areas where it creates a lot of trapped heat and ozone,” she said.

All of the the pavement and asphalt around downtown is actually making our city hotter. A few years ago, research found Louisville is warming at the fastest rate of any city in the nation.

But Magnuson says there’s a simple solution: plant more trees.

The shade from the trees helps to cool down the parking lot, she said. The trees also help purify the air, they even help absorb stormwater and limit flash flooding.

But there’s another reason Magnuson chose to plant these trees here. The parking lot hosts the Phoenix Hill farmers market and the Flea Off Market. It’s also one of the gateways into the east side of downtown.

“Everyday thousands of people pass this spot and we want to make it a billboard for our tree canopy," she said.

Over the next month, Magnuson and the volunteers will plant 20 trees, eight in the parking lot and another 12 across the street. The project is the work of Louisville-based nonprofit Earth Church, Fresh Start Grower's Supply and TreesLouisville.

It’s not easy work, but volunteer Sophia Ovechkin said the environment needs help, and it’s fun.

“I like doing this and it’s very satisfying to get all those big chunks up,” she said.


Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.