Next Friday, September 19th, is National Park(ing) Day! Begun just three years ago by San Francisco art collective, Rebar, and supported by the Trust for Public Land, Park(ing) Day now occurs in over 50 cities worldwide.
Here’s the gist: you and your friends cordon off a metered parking space in your neighborhood and turn it into a public park for the day (while feeding the meter, of course). Some people lay out rolls of sod or astroturf, while others use kiddie pools to create “water parks.” Rebar has put together a very easy and detailed “How-To Guide” for putting together your Park(ing) space, so there’s really no excuse.
Many small businesses use Park(ing) Day as a way to draw traffic to their stores. The shopkeepers in my local merchants’ association in Hayes Valley are commandeering at least three spaces for the event. When you think about it, participating in Park(ing) Day makes perfect sense from a business perspective. Not only do you create a crowd-drawing spectacle right in front of your store, you are encouraging people to linger there, sometimes for hours. And in the long term, anything that discourages driving and encourages walking (and therefore, window-shopping) swings the pendulum away from big boxes and back towards neighborhood institutions.
I’m looking forward to spending some time in my neighborhood’s “parks” next Friday. If my friends weren’t all working, I might even put together a space myself. To get an idea of what to expect, check out these photos.
One note: Park(ing) Day and all of its accoutrements are protected by a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution license, which means: 1) You cannot use your Park(ing) Space to directly sell or promote your business’s products or services (i.e. you can set it up in front of your store, but you cannot label it with your company’s logo or offer free samples) and 2) any signage, web site or other written materials on or referencing your Park(ing) Space must say “Original concept by REBAR. www.rebargroup.org.”