I have an older IG pool that has a concrete deck going all the way around it right up to the coping. Between the coping and the deck is the mastic (I think that's what it's called). The deck and mastic are in pretty poor shape, with the deck cracking in several places. I'd like to remove the deck right up to the coping around about 50% of the pool (left back side) so we can add some greenery to the back yard. Perhaps with some sort of stepping stones going around the perimeter where the deck is removed. The concrete itself is approximately 3" thick from what I can tell, and I don't believe it has any rebar in it. It also has several white expansion joint looking things that extend perpendicular from the coping. One of which (farthest right in photo) I was planning on removing the concrete right up to, hopefully not requiring a cut there.
My main question: Is the concrete deck in any way structural to the pool itself? Can I have it safely removed w/out compromising the pool?
I'd also be interested in hearing about any personal experience with removing concrete decks, and about having grass/greenery right up to the coping. Including suggestions on landscaping/design.
This image shows roughly what I'd like to do, excluding detail on possible stepping stones, bushes, shrubs, etc.. In actuality the coping is somewhat narrower than what is depicted in my drawing.