Hate Parking Meters? This Event Gives You Something to Love About Them

By Elle O’Casey

Park(ing) Day is an annual international event where artists, citizens, and designers come together to turn metered parking spaces into temporary public parks. This year the event will be held on September 16, 2016. The first Park(ing) Day took place in San Francisco eleven years ago. The idea arose from a need to increase public parks and greenspaces in a particular area of the city. Organizers wanted to hold some kind of an event to raise local awareness and action. The original Park(ing) Day organizers, Rebar, decided to transform a single metering parking space into a public green space for a day.

The first annual event, held in 2005, has since spawned a global movement that continues to cause participants and passers-by to reflect on the presence of public parks in their communities and see their town in a new way.

The original “park” in San Francisco existed for just two hours – or, until the meter ran out.

Image: Vancouver Public Space Network celebrates Park(ing) Day 2013

Vancouver Public Space Network celebrates Park(ing) Day 2013

When this happened, organizers packed up the benches and shrubbery, rolled up the sod, and headed home. However, after just a few weeks, images of the event began circulating on the internet and a flood of requests came in asking Rebar to complete similar installations in towns across the country. Rebar made a decision to make Park(ing) Day a crowd-sourced event. They chose to empower and equip others looking to hold similar events designed to raise awareness for public spaces. They created a “how to” manual and other resources for new organizers to use when planning their own park(ing) day event.

While the original concept put forth a more traditional view of a public park with trees, grass, and benches, Park(ing) Day events continue to redefine the notion of public spaces. Some Park(ing) Day installations have taken the form of political seminars, urban farms, health clinics, bike repair shops, and more while all happening within the confines of a single parking space. The main goal of the event, regardless of the type of public space created, is to identify community needs, context, and local identity in order to create a public space that resonates with the community.

Participating in Park(ing) Day is easy given the network-based approach organizers have created. The resources provided on their website at parkingday.org offer community support, FAQs, and links to existing groups.

Many towns in Vermont may not fit the traditional “city” model originally intended for a Park(ing) Day event. Many Vermont communities also have ample green space. However, the idea behind this event is to “challenge existing notions of public space and empower people to help redefine space to suit specific community needs.” Each Vermont village has a unique identity as well as a strong sense of community. Each town also faces a set of challenges, including limited financial and infrastructural resources. Park(ing) Day is an opportunity for us, within our communities, to define our desired future by developing a crowd-sourced, community-powered, micro-sized public space prototypes. These can be in our town centers and squares, on Main Street, in neighborhoods, in general store parking lots, or a variety of other locations. The idea is to bring placemaking to the people. Often times our public spaces are local, state, or federal public lands managed by city, state, or federal officials. Park(ing) Day is a chance for local residents to come together and creatively re envision one specific space within our community and work alongside our neighbors and peers to complete a creative placemaking project. Together, we can explore key questions like what our community identity is, what our community strengths are, what our town needs, ways we can create more gathering spaces on Main Street, and a whole host of other inquiries. We can then create a space to come together and recognize some of these conversations, ideas, qualities, and needs.

Do Just One Thing: Participate in a community placemaking project.

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