Get Ready for Park(ing) Day

Although PARK(ing) Day isn’t until September, specifically the third Friday in September, now is the perfect time to start planning.    So first, what is PARK(ing) Day? PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide one-day event where citizens convert metered parking spaces into public parks and open spaces, sometimes referred to as parklets.  The day is intended to encourage creative placemaking, particularly in places where access to parks is limited, as well as raise awareness about the importance of walkable, livable, and healthy communities.

The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat.

The project that started all of this was only in place for two hours – the time allotted on the parking meter.  A group of urban design collaborators found a parking space in a particularly gray part of downtown San Francisco, and converted it into a mini park by rolling out grass, setting up a bench, and bringing in a potted tree.

Within minutes, a man sat down on the bench, took off his shoes, and began to eat lunch. Another person joined soon after, and the two began having a conversation.  The group of urban collaborators knew they were on to something: “We created an opportunity for social interaction that wasn’t there before.”

Rebar’s original PARK(ing) project in 2005 in San Francisco.

When the meter expired, the organizers rolled up the sod, packed away the bench and the tree, cleaned up, and left.  But that two-hour temporary park left an impression and led to a movement.

After people found out about the project, the project organizers received multiple requests to create similar projects in other cities.  And what followed was the idea to empower people to create their own temporary parklets.  And thus “PARK(ing) Day” was born.

Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day participants have created thousands of temporary green, open and social spaces. They have reclaimed streets in diverse and unique ways by converting concrete into croquet greens, community health clinics, libraries, lemonade stands and bike workshops.

In 2006, the first PARK(ing) Day was celebrated with 47 “parks” in 13 cities across three countries. The event grew rapidly, expanding to more than 200 parks in 2007 and part of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2008. By 2011 PARK(ing) Day included almost 1,000 parks in 35 countries.

In some cities, Park(ing) Day is used to find out how a parklet would go over in their community. Park(ing) Day helped inspire San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program, its parklets initiative. The program has been a massive success, creating dozens of new public spaces across the city. And other cities across the globe, from Ames, Iowa, to Accra, Ghana, have since deployed parklets of their own.

Read about some examples of permanent parklets:

So, if you’re game, here are some steps to get started:

  • Contact your local DOT to see if they participate in Park(ing) Day. For example, Washington, DC issues event guidelines and information the District’s PARK(ing) Day.
  • Put together a team to plan, design, install and man your temporary parklet.
    • Popular elements include groundcover, seating, games, barriers and shade.
  • Find a metered parking space for your temporary parklet. Again, check with the local DOT as some areas may be off limits.
  • Get the word out so that people in your community come and visit your parklet on Park(ing) Day.
  • On Park(ing) Day, take lots of pictures and video, but also be in the moment and talk to people who visit your parklet. Be prepared to explain the goal of Park(ing) Day.

You can find more details in Rebar’s Park(ing) Day Manual.

If you’re wondering what others have done in the past on PARK(ing) Day, here are some examples.

So, have you identified the parking space for your PARK(ing) Day project?   If not, what are you waiting for.

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