This year’s international Park(ing) Day falls on September 19, a mere two weeks from now. On that day, individuals, groups, and businesses in cities around the world will commandeer on-street parking spaces and convert them to temporary parklets. These people-friendly spaces might include plants, seating, bike parking, games, exercise or play equipment, and/or goats (check out the goatlet).
During Park(ing) Day, participating cities will experience a tiny expansion of public open space, local cars may find slightly fewer places to park, and citizens will be able to refresh themselves in hundreds of urban oases-for-a-day. Already, planned parklet pins from Juneau to Barcelona are appearing on the 2014 global map.
The parklet craze started in San Francisco in 2005, when the art and design company Rebar Group unrolled a carpet of sod in a metered parking space, added a bench, and let the public enjoy it for two hours until the meter ran out. This act of “guerilla art” led the City of San Francisco to develop guidelines for permanent parklets, which now number more than 50 (visit the Flickr album). Other cities to catch parklet fever include Philadelphia, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Seattle, Phoenix, Boston, New York City, and even the tiny but vibrant town of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The many temporary parklets that spring up each Park(ing) Day not only pave the way for more permanent parklets, but also generate discussions about the use of public spaces and people’s experiences in them. Some of Rebar’s goals are to prompt cities to re-examine their car-centric structures, to allow strangers to interact with each other in situations that aren’t centered around money, and to encourage public play and creativity.
So if you have been wishing for a way to enliven the public landscape of your community but don’t happen to have a hellstrip on your property, in a couple of weeks you can take over a piece of your street for a day. Find DIY parklet guidelines and a community of other creators at the official Park(ing) Day Network website. Just a caveat: it may not be legal in your town. Until after you’ve done it.