Now that summer is officially here, most of us have hit our stride as far as outdoor activities go. For sure, the grill has been put to good use. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Fridays have welcomed swelling crowds into our downtowns. Brown-bag fans have staked out their favorite picnic table, bench, or seat wall to enjoy a few mid-day moments. And then there are the parks.
Merriam Webster on the web tells us that a park is a piece of public land in or near a city that is kept free of houses and other buildings and can be used for pleasure and exercise. Hmm, interesting definition but not exactly what we had in mind”¦
Lately, we are finding that communities are reinventing what a park is, what it contains, and its role in the community. Take, for example, in DuBois. When a vacant space became a nuisance, three (3) college interns, donated materials, and two new benches turned an eyesore into a community asset.
In Elizabethtown, construction of the new eastern gateway to the borough unearthed several millstones. Happenstance turned to serendipity when we worked with the borough to repurpose the millstones, creating a small plaza located at the entrance to the new bridge, which also serves as a comfortable, artistic, and historic parklet that doubles as a bus stop.
Even big cities can shine in small ways. Have you ever visited the Board Game Art Park located across from LOVE Park (JFK Plaza) in Philadelphia? A concrete plaza that functions as a shortcut for pedestrians traveling to and from the Municipal Services Building was enhanced with the addition of whimsical art forms. Titled Your Move, introducing oversized game pieces transformed an empty slab into an area for humor and respite.
For PDC members, remember the great presentation on the temporary plaza created in Butler, PA? This project was featured at the 2014 conference in Altoona and highlighted the creative thought and planning that took a barely-used side street and turned it into an outdoor eating and entertainment destination.
Other temporary parks are popping up in parking spaces across the state. Some stick closely to the PARKing Day guidelines while other communities are putting their own spin on this concept.
And why limit yourself to the ground plain? PDC members who attended the Annual Conference Welcome Event earlier this month in Lancaster can attest to the fun, casual, and yes, park-like vibe on the roof at Tellus 360.
Think small investment for big improvement. Consider your underused spaces or community trouble spots. Talk with your Eagle Scouts, your Garden Club members, your local re-use-it folks. Discover found opportunities that are probably hiding in plain sight, just around the corner, or right above your head.