We live in an incredible part of the country, with farms, open fields, forests, mountains, rocky coastlines, parks and public spaces and loads of trails by which to access them. It is an amazing resource, but not everyone is so lucky. Consider the city dweller for whom access to an open field or forest glen is as about as foreign a concept — not to mention reality — as visiting the surface of the moon.

A couple years ago while in Portland, Ore., for a conference, I had the opportunity to see a PARK(ing) Day being set up. I had never heard of PARK(ing) Day, but was intrigued to see people creating little islands of green, tiny parks in the space of a downtown parking spot. It was incredible.

This year, PARK(ing) Day is Sept.16 at some 183 cities in 30 countries on six continents. Yes, it is a global effort that has really sprouted wheels since its inception in 2005.

“In cities around the globe, artists, activists and citizens will transform metered parking spaces into temporary public parks and other social spaces, as part of an annual event called “PARK(ing) Day,” said Rebar principal Matthew Passmore. Rebar is a San Francisco-based art and design studio that Invented the day.

Indeed, the event seems to bring out the creativity in participants who often lay down sod and then let their imagination take it from there. The results are a fantasy of green possibilities, tiny landscapes bursting with life tucked in among cavernous walls of high rise buildings that line city streets.

But more importantly, the event speaks to that “need for green” that can only be satisfied in green-growing spaces like parks, yards and gardens. Numerous studies have confirmed the physical and emotional benefits that can be obtained only through contact with natural, growing spaces. And, yes, even though the event only comes around once a year and is transient, it has brought attention to this basic human need that is often lacking in large cities

“PARK(ing) Day invites people to rethink the way streets are used and promotes discussion around the need for broad- based changes to urban infrastructure. Urban inhabitants worldwide recognize the need for new approaches to making cities,” said Passmore. “The planning strategies that have led to traffic congestion, pollution and poor health in cities everywhere do not reflect contemporary values, nor are they sustainable. PARK(ing) Day raises these issues and demonstrates that even temporary projects can improve the character and quality of the city.”

Participation in the annual event has grown rapidly. From Iran to Madagascar, Venezuela to South Korea, the project continues to expand to urban centers across the globe, and participants have broadened the scope of PARK installations to fulfill a range of unmet social needs.

“From public parks to free health clinics, from art galleries to demonstration gardens, PARK(ing) Day participants have claimed the metered parking space as a rich new said for creative experimentation, activism, socializing and play,” says John Bela, a Rebar principal.

PARK(ing) Day is an “open-source” project initiated by Rebar, but built by independent groups around the globe who adapt the project to advance creative, social or political causes that are relevant to their local urban conditions.

“While PARK(ing) Day may be temporary, the image of possibility it offers has lasting effects and is shifting the way streets are perceived and utilized,” said Bela.

In recent years, PARK(ing) Day has inspired city governments to create legal mechanisms to extend the public realm into the parking lane. In San Francisco, the Pavement to Parks “Parklet” program provides a permit system for businesses, community groups and individuals to transform metered parking spaces into small “parklets” that are open to the public, according to a news release from Rebar. In New York City the “pop up café” program offers similar permit system for local cafes wishing to offer sidewalk service.Similar programs in other cities around the U.S. are currently in development.

“What has been really gratifying,” says Rebar principal Blaine Merker, “is that PARK(ing) Day, which began as a guerrilla art project, has been adopted by cities and integrated into their official planning strategies. A relatively modest art intervention has changed the way cities conceive, organize and use public space.”

And while the concept may not get much traction in area towns here, it is gratifying to witness the recognition of that “need for green” elsewhere that only adds to our own appreciation of the resources we have so close at hand.

For more information, visit the PARK(ing) Day project, parkingday.org.

 

 

 

Photo contest to find a ‘lawn care pro’ to win a battery-powered mower

Is your yard the envy of the neighborhood? Does your backyard remind your friends of the back nine? Are you sought out for yard care advice? If so, Toro wants to hear about it. Enter the Toro YardCare Pro photo contest and you could be maintaining your yard with a new Toro e-Cycler mower to help make caring for their lawn easy — and eco-friendly, and blogging rights on Yardcare.com.

Toro wants to know what makes you a pro when maintaining your lawn or landscape. Share your tips, stories, and a photo of your yard with us, and you could become an official Toro YardCare Pro. The contest runs through Sept. 16, 2011. Three winners will be announced in September.

The winners also will be given the opportunity to become an official blogger for Yardcare.com, Toro’s website. For additional details on the contest, including te official rules, visit Facebook.com/Toro.Yard.

 

 

Lynette L. Walther is the recipient of the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award and the Florida Magazine Association’s Silver Award of Writing Excellence. She is a member of the Garden Writers Association, and she gardens in Camden. Got questions, or comments? Visit her blog, and join in the conversation at: gardeningonthego.wordpress.com or on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHOTOS: Lynette L. Walther

 

(parking day sign) International PARK(ing) Day sign in Portland Oregon only hints at the creativity that participants call upon to create tiny “parks” in automobile parking spots downtown.

 

(parking space park) How would you transform a parking spot into a park? The sight of a little park in an automobile parking space in a metropolitan center takes a bit of getting used to.

 

(setting up) Participants bring in all manner of props and decorations for their tiny parks that occupy one automobile parking space.

 

(city street) An entire downtown city street in Portland Oregon is fenced off as International PARK(ing) Day participants set up their parking-space parks. This year’s even is Sept. 16, and will be celebrated in downtowns in cities and countries all around the world.

 

SIDEBAR CUTLINE:

(mower image) Share your yard-care tips and enter your photo in Toro’s YardCare Pro photo contest, and you might be the winner of a new Toro e-Cycler lawn mower. ({Photo from Toro)