“PARK(ing) Day is way for the community to create more public space for a day and really showcase how precious this shared open space in our downtown is.”
– Amy Donahue, River City Co., Chattanooga, TN
What began as a single act in a metered parking spot in San Francisco’s SOMA district eleven years ago has since become an annual global experiment in creating temporary public spaces.
In 2005, Rebar, an art and design studio based in the Bay Area, fed quarters into a city parking meter, roped off the parking space, laid down sod and set up a temporary public park. Project planners noted that most of downtown San Francisco’s outside spaces were devoted specifically to transportation, either roads or parking. However, metered street parking allowed for the possibility of leasing public space, albeit on an extremely temporary basis.
Rebar’s first experiment in parking space parks lasted all of two hours, after which, the sod was rolled up, everything was removed, and the spot swept clean. Though the park itself was fleeting, the photo above spread across the internet, sparking the interest of tactical urbanists around the country.
In response, Rebar founded the annual PARK(ing) Day, held on the third Friday of September. For what they’ve described as a “quintessentially ‘open source’ project,” Rebar has encouraged participants to expand from their initial “tree-bench-sod” design and explore the possibilities of what could be done with these temporary urban public spaces.
While in many communities, PARK(ing) Day flies under the radar, preserving its guerrilla-urban-planning nature by popping up in available spaces and risking the ire of meter-maids and commuters alike, in other cities, PARK(ing) Day has been embraced and celebrated by city officials. This past year in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 60 parklets were coordinated and sanctioned by local economic development non-profit River City Company. In Buckhead, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, local planners are selling official registrations to participate at $100 for one space or $150 for two. While the registration fees don’t exactly align with the low cost, DIY spirt of PARK(ing) Day, the proceeds are to be used by Livable Buckhead to fund future multi-use trail and park construction.
“If Buckhead had a birthstone it would be concrete,” Livable Buckhead jokes in its press release, “PARK(ing) Day gives us a chance to imagine what we could do if we were less dependent on our cars and could use parking spaces in more interesting ways.”
For more information on how to participate, please visit Rebar’s PARK(ing) Day information site.