A couple of years ago, I wrote a column about Park(ing) Day, “the annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into ‘PARK(ing)’ spaces: temporary public places.”
I was fascinated by this event and vowed to participate, but I didn’t make that promise out loud, so last year’s Park(ing) Day came and went, and I neither collaborated nor transformed. I can’t remember why, but it probably had to do with a busy summer followed by the start of the school year and my mode of perpetual “catch up.” But this year, it’s going to happen.
The whole idea of occupying a parking spot for reasons other than storing my car really strikes a chord with me, because it seems like one of the silly, harmlessly rebellious, and often hilarious things I used to do with my friends in high school. Things like dressing up as “holy rollers” for Halloween so we could wear skates at school all day. Things like running through the cemetery at night. Things like going to the beach and applying sunscreen artistically.
I know Park(ing) Day’s creators mean for it to be noble and thought-provoking, but I can’t bring myself to feel so earnest about something that seems so much like a prank. It’s a great prank, no doubt about it, and definitely has the potential to “improve the quality of urban human habitat,” but to me, it just sounds like fun.
My mind has been racing with ideas about where I can stage my PARK. I’m also considering several themes including a potluck lunch with friends, lemonade stand, “free” yard sale, talent show, or possibly a combination of all of those.
Some of my first ideas involved a water-balloon launch and a portable fire pit. But if I could do anything I wanted, I’m sure I’d just get arrested, so I’ll stick with the safe stuff.
What I want to avoid are any and all types of meetings with my local law enforcement professionals, a half-assed job that produces only embarrassing pictures and a whole lot of hassle and stress in my already hassled and stressed life.
So, there will be no laying of sod or transporting of heavy potted Ficus trees, but there will be food, folks and fun, in some form.
According to the Park(ing) Day website:
“In 2011, there were 975 PARKs in 162 cities in 35 countries and on 6 continents. … And while these numbers make 2011 the biggest PARK(ing) Day ever, it is important to remember that it is the quality of the interventions that matters most.
“Having lots of PARKs is really cool, but having great PARKs is even better – PARKs that propose an alternative vision for the use of urban space, PARKs that convince others to join the cause, PARKs that change minds, PARKs that make you smile.”
Park(ing) Day activities are not exactly legal in all states and countries. It’s up to the participant to be aware of local laws. If you don’t want to build your own PARK, you can plan a Park(ing) Day tour. Visit www.parkingday.org and print a map of the PARKs in your area. You can also donate materials or services to someone else’s PARK, or become an official sponsor.
This year Parking Day is Friday, Sept. 21. Because the “People in Parking” issue is printed in August, I’m using my July column to pitch Park(ing) Day – hoping that as many people as possible will participate.
No one’s paying me anything to promote this worldwide event. And maybe readers of Parking Today are more likely to be annoyed than entertained by Park(ing) Day, but I’m going out on a limb here anyway.
I see it as an opportunity for the industry to reach across the divide – to become one with the customer and the resource that is parking. Make a parking spot – a bit of real estate nearly always taken for granted – something to be enjoyed for a few hours and inspire the public to look with new eyes at the work that parking professionals do every day.
The best way to participate in PARK(ing) Day is to design and build a PARK. It’s easy – you don’t need to be an artist, community activist or have any special training to do a PARK, but you do need to be aware of your local regulations and do your best to stay within the law.
1. Read the “license” published at www.parkingday.org. Understand that by participating you agree to its terms. Notice that the license gives you only the legal right to use the trademark “PARK(ing) Day”; it does not give the right to occupy a metered parking space! It is your responsibility to research the legal regulations in your area and, if necessary, contact the local authorities for permission. Obey the law and have fun.
2. Come back to the website in just a few weeks to grab the updated, free PARK(ing) Day Manual. It’s a portable, easy-to-download PDF that covers the basics and a little philosophy, and proceeds go to keep this website and the community network alive each year. Also check out the other resources that can help you mark your PARK.
3. Join the DIY Planning Network. It’s a social network designed exclusively for PARK(ing) Day participants. Browse for a group in your city, or start your own and trade ideas for this year’s event.
4. Add your planned PARK to the world map at www.parkingday.org. This helps others find you and helps track the growth of the movement to reclaim cities on PARK(ing) Day!
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PT’s proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.