Today marks the 10th annual Park(ing) Day, a world-wide event where planners, artists, designers and everyday citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks. The original idea was a guerrilla installation of sorts, where people fed a parking meter all day long and instead of occupying the space with a car they transformed it into a park. These days most cities, including Washington DC and Singapore, have organized the event in a more formal manner through applications or permit approvals to allow various groups to create pop-up parks in parking spaces. While part of me is disappointed that this event is no longer a completely ground up initiative, it is great to see how much more attention these pop-up parks receive from the general public with more local government support. This also means that in many cases government agencies themselves have created their own pop-up parks.
The diversity of spaces that pop-up in cities during this event always surprises me. I remember having a kids wadding pool along 6th Ave in Manhattan with fellow graduate urban planning students during Park(ing) Day in 2010. Today I briefly stopped by two Park(ing) Day spaces side-by-side in downtown Silver Spring organized by Montgomery County Parks and the Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission. The first created a bike corral to display how the space taken up by one car can hold 8 bikes. This space also helped to educate members of the public, like myself, about an upcoming Bike Master Plan currently under review and seeking public input. The other space was turned into a simple park, complete with official Montgomery County Park signage, benches, colorful moveable chairs and a game of corn hole.
In Singapore this year spaces were converted to a number of different uses including an urban farm, a beach, art displays, hammock lounges, book swap spaces, a street art gallery, a yoga center, ukulele jam spaces, a public piano to be player, a street barber, a drum circle, and cafes. Although the Park(ing) Day spaces in Silver Spring might not have been as unique as those in Singapore, they did encourage people to stop to appreciate this park, eat their lunch outside and meet new people. As this day of celebrating public parks comes to a close, I hope that people around the world will not forget their creative uses for these spaces today, but will continue to appreciate and use our existing public spaces in unique ways throughout the year.
All photos are by the author.