The number of parks throughout Philadelphia increases dramatically each year on the third Friday in September, when activists, artists, architects, and other citizens transform metered parking spaces into temporary public parks. Known as Park(ing) Day, this annual event re-imagines the possibilities of 170 square feet of public space. The event celebrates parks and other public spaces in cities across the country, and raises awareness of the need for more pedestrian-friendly spaces in our urban areas. — About Park(ing) Day
Today, I had a wonderful time volunteering with Tyler Arboretum at their first-ever PARK(ing) Day park! This one-day event, which takes place in locations across the country, was an outstanding opportunity for Tyler Arboretum to bring just a small piece of its 650-acres to Center City and get the word out about our gem in Delaware County.
I visited my first Philadelphia PARK(ing) Day event in 2013 and blogged about it on my Journeys of Dr. G blog. But the event has grown significantly in just two years, with incredibly fun, festive, and engaging parklets! This year, Tyler joined 51 other parking spaces in the city (see the map) that were set up by other organizations such as the Clean Air Council, Fairmount Park Conservancy, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, US EPA, and other organizations such as Zipcar and SEPTA (our closest neighbors on Market Street and new friends!).
Tyler had a full day of engaging in conversation with people passing by on their way to work, finding their next place to visit as a tourist, or even those specifically going around the city to visit these innovative parking spaces. And we were thrilled to be located right in front of the Fox 29 studios on Market Street and have Sue Serio do a live segment with Tyler’s Executive Director, Cricket Brien!
I really enjoyed being able to play a part in introducing Tyler Arboretum to people that had no prior knowledge about Tyler, as well as reminding people that knew about Tyler of all of the outdoor opportunities Tyler has to offer. Our fox mascot was such a hit with everyone – in fact, one woman came up to us that said she was having a really bad day, but our parklet made her smile and feel happy, and she took photos of us with her as well as photos with the fox! Seeing her laugh and smile while spending those few minutes in our “slice of Tyler” really made my day. You can see additional images of the fox and our entire parking space in the collection of tweets from Twitter (link below) and the image slideshow.
My take-home message from the day includes what I learned from PARK(ing) Day two years ago… I learned that public spaces can be established in urban environments for community-building, conversations, and education, and we should always look for ways to create more of these sites. I learned that parking spaces in Philly can be fun! And although it takes a mini-army to create a parklet (and a special thanks to Redbud Native Plant Nursery for their plant contributions), Tyler can be brought on the road to raise awareness in the community and bring a smile to people’s faces.