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Public Spaces

Park(ing) Day highlights the value of green, public space

Last Friday, the District and Arlington temporarily transformed pavement into parkland to celebrate Park(ing) Day, the annual event to raise awareness and generate discussion about how cities use public space. The pop-up parks showcased the value that green, public space has for communities, even in an area as small as a parking space.

Photo by the author.

The largest Park(ing) Day space was in front of the Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, hosted by half of the District's 12 councilmembers in their reserved parking spaces.

The 6 spaces created a long stretch of grass complete with picnic tables, a "reading room," and curb space for bike parking. Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Muriel Bowser, Kenyan McDuffie, Tommy Wells, Michael A. Brown, and Chairman Phil Mendelson all donated their spaces.

The Pennsylvania Avenue parklet was the most active in town, with a stream of events throughout the day. The programming kicked off with yoga and a storytelling session for families with members of the DC Public Library. Later in the day, Common Good City Farm hosted a fruit pie demonstration. Between events, visitors had plenty of opportunities to sit back and enjoy the spacious grass and seating.

Pennsylvania Ave. Park(ing) Day 2012. Photo by the author.

Storytime at Pennsylvania Ave. Park(ing) Day 2012. Photo by Joe in DC on Flickr.

Casey Trees participated in Park(ing) Day for the second consecutive year, this time occupying three spaces at 12th and G Streets NW, near Metro Center.

"[Last year] at Dupont Circle, it was a little easier for people already to see an urban landscape, but down here there are almost no trees," spokesman Christopher Horn told The Washington Post. "We've definitely had more people stop this year and ask, 'what's this?'"

Photo by the author.

Casey Trees brought shade trees from its farm in Berryville, Va., as well as a wide variety of plants, many of which were available for sale. Their park also featured picnic tables, a bean bag toss, and complimentary iced tea and lemonade, which visitors appreciated during the hottest part of the day.

Casey Trees Park(ing) Day 2012. Photo by the author.

In Rosslyn, Artisphere hosted two Park(ing) Day spaces, in conjunction with their Beyond the Parking Lot exhibit that is on display until November 4. The small park made the most of its size with a various plants, a small table, and chairs.

Park(ing) Day 2012 at Artisphere. Photo by the author.

Artisphere's space included the must-see attraction of the Park(ing) Day: a giant shopping cart that that was an oversized piece of art and a donation bin for the Arlington Street People's Assistance Network (A-SPAN). A-SPAN encouraged passersby to drop gently used professional clothing into the cart to help with its homeless job placement programs.

Park(ing) Day 2012 at Artisphere. Photo by the author.

Another parklet in Arlington, outside of Courthouse Metro station rounded out the Park(ing) Day festivities in the area. Visitors to this parklet were entertain in high style, with white tablecloths topping tables set in the repurposed parking spaces and surrounded by plants.

Courthouse Park(ing) Day. Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

Courthouse Park(ing) Day. Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

Even though Park(ing) Day is just one day each year, it's a lasting reminder of the tradeoffs we make with our public space.

Aimee Custis is a wonk, communicator, and professional advocate at the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Her writing represents her own views, though they're often aligned with her employer's. Weekends, you'll find Aimee at home in Dupont Circle or practicing her other love, wedding photography


I'm fine with making the tradeoff and making many of these parklets more permanent.

Heck, why wouldn't a business be allowed to prioritize the parking spots in front of their business and allow them to get a permit to put tables their like they can do with the sidewalk? Some places could choose to add tables or whatever, others could assume that they'd rather keep the ability for someone to park there.

/yes, I know there is a myriad of details/specific situations to be envisioned but again, curbside parking doesn't always need to be considered sacred.

by drumz on Sep 27, 2012 2:15 pm • linkreport

Back in Italy this happens on a daily basis :/

Also have some great photos of the Kiwis doing likewise; and like us they've grown up around the auto -- almost nonexistent transit in NZ.

by Bossi on Sep 27, 2012 2:46 pm • linkreport

Following the week's discussions, DC needs to grow up and become a responsible city and own and maintain some parks. Real parks.

I'm against excessive curbside parking in commercial areas as much as anyone else and would love those spaces put to better use. But I think loading zones, bulb-outs and streetcar rights-of-way are also extremely important.

Let's have a couple real 10-20 acre DC public parks.

by Tom Coumaris on Sep 27, 2012 2:49 pm • linkreport

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