What’s your daily routine? You get up, get dressed, tend to the daily chores, and start your commute. If you’re a city driver you know that you have a slog ahead of you. It’s not something we look forward to, but it’s something we must do to get ourselves to work on time. At the end of that commute there’s parking.
What if, for just one day, your routine changed ever so slightly? What if there was a little more greenery on your routine? Picture this: one small parking space outside of your building is now a tiny, yet welcoming parklet. It’s a place for you to sip your morning coffee off of the concrete. To play a game of massive Connect 4 or giant Jenga. To give you a place to breathe for just a moment before the routine kicks back in.
PARK(ing) Day brings this picture to life. What began as a single, two hour parking spot takeover in San Francisco in 2005 has now transformed into an annual event across the globe. The objective of PARK(ing) Day is to bring awareness to our need for more open urban spaces. It’s meant for people to stop and think about how their cities are designed. Could they be more people, instead of car, friendly? PARK(ing) Day’s answer to that question is a resounding yes.
Island Press has participated in PARK(ing) Day for three years. We were one of 23 groups in DC to take part this year. It’s something we believe in as an organization and it’s a good excuse to get some sunshine on a Friday in September.
As we began construction on this year’s spot a light rain began to fall. While we hoped for sun all day, this has been one of the wettest Septembers on record, so at this point we’re beginning to adjust to the constant moistness. Island Press Publicity Associate Katharine Sucher and I were tasked with beautifying the parklet. A walk in the rain to Trader Joes was in order! We took our (graciously borrowed) mail cart from our friends at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) of DC and walked, dripping wet, for 40 minutes up and back to get flowers, pumpkins, and some sweet treats to entice passersby.
After a soggy set up the parklet looked great! Our parklet partner ULI brought chairs, interactive games, and provided additional reading materials for our tiny library. Our neighbors, the US Green Building Council (USGBC), also joined in the festivities. Together we took turns holding down the fort and telling people who gave us strange looks why we were casually sitting in the street. Zelda, the spunky black lab, even graced our presence to eat at our hay bales and get belly rubs.
We spoke to several casual observers, sharing our reasoning for wanting more green spaces in cities. While that was great, the real culmination of the day came when someone casually took a seat in our makeshift “living room” and ate a bag of chips while scrolling on their phone. It was like the park was meant to be there! Her reaction made all the planning, soaking wet set-up, and eventual breakdown well worth the effort.
Shakespeare once said, “What is the city but for the people?” We believe PARK(ing) Day gives the people a chance to reclaim cities for their own and disrupt their routines, even if it’s just for one day.