Park(ing) Day to be celebrated in downtown St. Joseph

Almost 10 years ago a group came together in San Francisco to draw attention to the amount of space dedicated to cars and other vehicles in the city compared to the amount of space set aside for people.

They put enough money in a parking meter to hold the parking space for two hours and created a "park" in the parking space complete with sod, a tree, and a park bench. The picture of their two-hour exploration of what could be done with a parking space for a short span of time traveled the globe through the Internet. 

People started contacting the organizers, asking them to create a Park(ing) Day for their community. Instead the group knowns as Rebar created a how-to-manual to help communities create "parks" of their own. 

They also encourage communities interested in the concept to do more than replicate the park with a tree, bench, and sod. They suggested using the day to identify the needs of the community and use the parking spaces to highlight those needs. For example, participants have built free health clinics, planted temporary urban farms, produced ecology demonstrations, held political seminars, built art installations, and opened free bike repair shops in parking spaces. A wedding ceremony has even been conducted in a Park(ing) Day "park."

The now international event dedicated to reclaiming parking spaces for the people is coming to St. Joseph and Benton Harbor for the first time on Friday, Sept. 19.

Krasl Art Center, St. Joseph Public Library, Whirlpool Creatives Association and Wightman and Associates, Inc. are collaborating to bring the event to the area in celebration of the day citizens, artists, and designers temporarily transform parking spaces into temporary public parks. Actual parking spaces will be converted into "parks" for the day.

Locally, there will be four "parks" open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- one in Downtown St. Joseph on the corner of Broad and State streets and three next to the Krasl Art Center and the St. Joseph Public Library.

"We formed this partnership to learn more of what people want in their communities today in order to inform our future design work," says Bill LaDitka, Director of Architecture for Wightman & Associates Inc. "The team at Wightman has done similar types of placemaking activities recently to generate conversation in communities, looking to learn more about the future."

Source: Jamie Balkin, Wightman & Associates, Inc. 
Photos: Sacramento PARK(ing) Day 2009 by Eric Fredericks 
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