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Where urban areas have been developed, the land has gone from green to grey. Forests, wetlands, and prairies were replaced with buildings, parking lots, and roads. With this grey landscape came “grey infrastructure” for stormwater management, that quickly channels stormwater from pavement into pipes that empty into nearby streams. Grey infrastructure degrades and diminishes habitat for animals and plants. As a consequence, humans are disconnected from nature.

More recently, land in cities is being converted from grey back to green. Urban planners, biologists, and community members have begun a green infrastructure revolution in cities.   Green infrastructure 'builds with nature', utilizing plants and soil to provide green space, habitat, and clean stormwater, from bioswales to rain gardens to riparian zones. Stormwater is slowed down, and instead of moving into pipes, stormwater infiltrates into soil and plants, improving and nourishing ecosystems. Green infrastructure can be used to retrofit existing infrastructure, or incorporated into new infrastructure. But as most urban infrastructure is old, retrofitting older infrastructure provides multiple challenges.

Land on McMaster University's West Campus has moved from green to grey. McMaster University converted a floodplain into parking lot M in 1968. The previously RBG-owned property, known as the “Coldspring Valley Nature Sanctuary” was part of a  wildlife corridor connecting the Dundas Valley to Cootes Paradise. Wetlands and forests were filled in and paved, leaving a narrow strip of land next to Ancaster Creek bordering the parking lot. Ancaster Creek was channelized. Stormwater, warmed and contaminated with de-icing salt, heavy metals, and asphalt, was directed into storm drains moving into the creek. Habitat was degraded and lost.

Lot M's old grey infrastructure provides a case study for green infrastructure retrofits. A riparian buffer has been constructed, and plans are in motion for bioretention cells to be created. Ancaster Creek's riparian buffer (land between the parking lot and creek) was expanded in 2014 with a 20 x 500 m section of land taken out of the parking lot. Bioretention cells are proposed for the tree medians of the parking lot to capture and remediate stormwater. These retrofits will provide habitat, treat stormwater, and connect people to nature. McMaster University, situated in a diverse natural landscape, is joining the green infrastructure revolution.

Prioritizing green infrastructure at McMaster University's west campus has developed new, creative initiatives to increase sustainability. One initiative is the Parking to Paradise Project, which focuses on research, collaboration, and outreach. Research looks at the ecology and hydrology of retrofitting the parking lot with a riparian buffer and bioswale. Collaboration between biologists, engineers, historians and the community has taken place. Outreach includes social media, hikes, work days, and an upcoming website and signage. While building cities and simultaneously prioritizing nature is challenging, the case study at McMaster University provides the opportunity to collaboratively seek solutions and engage others along the way.

Access to Parking 2 Paradise is free to all users. 

Parking rates may apply. 

Parking 2 Paradise

Directions from McMaster


Directions From McMaster University:

  • The Parking 2 Paradise project, otherwise known as the Lot M Buffer, is located on campus at Parking lot M.

Please Note:

  • When biking, please obey all traffic signals and always remember to wear a helmet. 
  • Hamilton buses are free for students with valid student IDs and bus passes.