What are Hellstrips? Why Sidewalk Lawns Deteriorate

December 4, 2021

Hellstrips are the small slivers of lawn or dirt between a sidewalk and a street. They’ve earned notoriety (and such an unfortunate nickname) because they have a tendency to become muddy, bare, and/or patchy, making them infamously difficult to maintain.

But don’t worry! No need to throw in the towel – there’s plenty you can do to transform them into a prettier, more functional part of your landscape.


What Causes the Deterioration of Hellstrips?

Though hellstrips are extremely common in front of urban apartments and stratas, their usage extends often into suburban areas, where they usually last longer and fare better due to lower levels of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Sometimes, these strips of grass (often decorated with evenly spaced trees or well-groomed shrubs) look great; when they do, they offer endless curb appeal!

However, the unfortunate truth is that even though there are are many factors that can lead a hellstrip to Preview Changes (opens in a new tab)flourish, there are even more that can lead it to become a muddy, dirty, ugly pit that looks terrible – especially in the winter.

Here are the most common reasons for hellstrip deterioration:

Pedestrian traffic

People walking across lawns over and over to get to their vehicles compacts the grass and sod, causing bare patches and mud pits where the grass can no longer grow.

Dog urine

These strips of grass are some of the most common areas for pet owners to allow their dogs to urinate, which can kill patches of grass.


In urban areas of Vancouver, the combination of tall trees and nearby skyscrapers mean that lawns aren’t getting nearly enough sunlight to thrive.

Tree roots

Trees are a common feature along hellstrips, but as they grow larger, their roots can interrupt the growth of grass, absorb much-needed water, and make turf maintenance near the trunk a tedious and difficult chore.


Often, when people in vehicles turn into or out of their parking garage, they run over exposed corners of the grass and leave tire tracks across the lawn. Vehicles also throw excess dirty water that has collected along curbs onto lawns, causing oversaturation and drainage issues.


Road salts and de-icers cause dehydration in plants and vegetation. During the winter, when road salt is applied to sidewalks, it inevitably finds its way onto the grass, resulting in bare or dead patches.



Solutions for hellstrips

Once damaged, the grass in hellstrips can be terribly difficult to remediate without a full overhaul.

Moreover, because sidewalks and hellstrips are usually public property, each municipality has bylaw restrictions that stipulate what can and cannot be installed there. Permits may be required when installing hardscapes. However, permits aren’t generally needed for the installation of plant material, soil, or more grass.

That being said, you should always research the bylaws in your municipality before installing or removing anything from public property.


Here are the most common solutions to help remediate hellstrips:

Incorporate hardscapes

Slabs, pavers, boulders, or even stepping stones can be incorporated to minimize the impacts of vehicle and pedestrian traffic on lawns.

Remove lawns entirely

Consider replacing them with bark mulch, aggregates, or plants – or a combination of all three!

Turn them into gardens!

It’s easy enough to remove the sod, put in soil instead, and design a new landscape featuring ornamental plants that are more likely survive and thrive than grass. Using principles of plant display design, this will also add unique colours and textures to an otherwise fairly monotonous landscape.

Hellstrips No More

First impressions are key. The front of your building and the landscape that adorns it are the first thing that visitors will notice!

No matter how tidy and ornamental the rest of your landscape looks, muddy or bare blotches in your lawns will always stick in the forefront of someone’s mind, damaging their overall impression of your establishment. Reinventing your building’s hellstrips is an opportunity to rejuvenate your entire landscape in a way few would expect, increasing curb appeal and property values at your residence.

If the lawns that line your boulevard are starting to become hellstrips and you aren’t sure what to do, consider getting in touch!

At Para Space, we have an accredited team of designers who are always looking for modern and innovative ways to improve the look of your landscape. Our experienced and certified staff can offer a variety of services that will add impact and value to your property.

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