Permeable Parking Surface

Permacltur at Permacltur at
Tue Aug 31 14:57:50 EDT 1999

I got a reply from my friend in N. Florida about his parking lot--not 

>>Dear Dan,
  It was good to hear from you and the news about your expanding family is 
great! The news on my parking lot is not so good as I am debating on whether 
or not I need to have it redone. It has developed shallow pot hole like 
areas about 1/2 to 1 inch deep and about 4 to 12 inches in diameter. I am 
afraid people may trip on them although they are not deep enough to bother 
the car traffic. The porous concrete idea is not being used very much 
anymore, probably because of problems like mine. Don't know how I will go 
about fixing it.<<

I've not heard anyone suggest swales under the  cars.  While it would be 
impractical to grow much in them and they would have to be shallow enough for 
the stray idiot who drives into them to drive back out, but they could work.  
Actually they could be grated against idiots--expensive both financially and 
ecologically, unfortunately.   

In many places there are strips between some of the parking rows.  Typically, 
these strips can be swales with trees such as willow, the tree forms of alder 
and elder, etc., growing in them for some shade and wind abatement.  Most any 
tree that handles periodic flooding can be used.  

Here in Florida, where every parking lot or other "immprovement" must absorb 
all rainfall in any circumstance, large parking areas sucha s big malls 
require constructed wetlands.  These quickly become populated with wildlife.  
 Making the tree strips also serve as swales would actually REDUCE the total 
area required.   Presumably trees such as sweetgums, water oaks, etc., would 
grow better in such swales providing increased cooling by increased shade and 
transpiration while reducing the windiness of such open spaces.
    Whiile it is clearly useful to apply design to parking areas, we need to 
remember that making these spaces more humane and less ecologically 
disasterous is a stopgap measure.  People need to be able to get what they 
need mostly on foot or bicycle, while we attempt to decrease the number of 
cars in the world and the numbers of hours the average car is driven in, say, 
 a month.  This means producing more at home or nearby of those things we 
need regularly and redesigning the access routes to favor foot travel with 
designated bicycle routes.  Designing better parking surfaces is easy by 
    For example, while we live on 16 acres surrounded by swamp and can be 
self-reliant in food and water, my wife teaches at the local university about 
30 miles away, meaning that she drives that distance back and forth and part 
of a parking facility is, in effect, constructed and maintained for her use.  
That probably represents at least one order of magnitude more than all our 
other activities combined, as far as our effect on the enviornment is 
concerned.   Yet her work seems very important to both of us--she is 
introducing "alternative therapies" (herbal medicine, various forms of 
massage, acupuncture, etc.) to the program of the University of Florida 
College of Nursing, which is a profound change from the "wait 'til its broke 
then fix  it with chemicals" approach of conventional medicine. 
We basically hope that the benefit out weighs the ecological cost, and, to be 
honest, we also want some income to pay off the debt on our land and 
buildings.  Were the system to collapse entirely (which I've come to believe 
is unlikely in any sort of abrupt sense), we could live sustainably here 
working less than we do now.  As long as the global cash economy persists, I 
expect we will partake in it to some extent and thus remain part of the 
problem that we simultaneously seek to solve.  anyone who isn't part of the 
problem isn't reading this becacuse s/he doesn't have a computer or a 
government that levies taxes, for that matter.  So far as I can figure, about 
the only way we could be not part of the problem would be to become homeless 
scavangers (not using soup kitchens, mind you).   This would make us fairly 
ineffectual as teachers, though I suppose Cynthia cold teach simple health 
and medicinal options to other homeless and I could teach edible wild foods 
(perhaps then becoming part of the problem again when the survival of these 
food species is thereatened by over harvesting.)  

    We need to keep in mind that fixing up parking lots for automobiles is so 
far back from addressing basic problems of sustainability posed by Western 
(and Westernized) society (meaning economic systems),, that one has to let go 
of all thought one to work on the other.   I supposed that in this context it 
is fortunate that our species is basically duplistic (or multiplistic) and 
can embrace all sorts of contradictory states as a normal sort of thing to do.

For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since 
1982), Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses, 
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and annual correspondence 
courses via email.  Copyright, 1998, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway, P.O. Box 52, 
Sparr FL 32192 USA  Internships. YankeePerm at  

We don't have time to rush.

A list by topic of all Yankee Permaculture titles may be found at
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