Parking Spots and Elevated Parks

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September 21st was National Park(ing) Day and Chicago had two groups participating in the event. On Friday, a park was created by the Trust for Public Land (TPL) who played a crucial role in over a dozen cities nationwide and helped make Chicago’s call to action a success. Chicago Cacophony created a second park on Saturday the 22nd. Flickr photos from their event are posted here.

National Park(ing) Day was created in 2005 by San Francisco collaborative, Rebar, with the goal of reclaiming public parking spaces and turning them ‘green’ for a day. The group converted spots reserved for vehicles into tiny parks—reminding passersby and pedestrians of the good that green space can do in a city.

The reception for TPL’s event was friendly and informal with benches, a train set to amuse the kids, a wishing tree, and cupcakes for all. The best part, though, was the purely positive sense of the whole experience. Unlike a lot of ‘activist’ events, Chicago’s Park(ing) Day demonstration was without pretense, hostility or blaming. Focusing on the positive benefits of green space (as places for lunchtime camaraderie and comfy relaxation spots) and offering another great reason not to drive to work (more green, less parking spots!), the day left no one out and left a mark on everyone.

Sitting on a bench writing down my wish, I couldn’t help but notice the elevated railroad track just to the left of where TPL had set up the park. After talking with Beth White, Director of TPL’s Chicago area office and Julia Kim, Program Manager for Friends of Bloomingdale Trail, it was obvious the strategic positioning of TPL’s parking spot went beyond high-traffic visibility. Julia explained the railroad track is a piece of what Friends of Bloomingdale Trail are working to transform into an elevated park that would run for 3 uninterrupted miles above Chicago, spanning Humboldt Park, Bucktown, Wicker Park and Logan Square. If the park is completed as planned it will be only the third elevated park in the world. Check out the complete vision here.

This lofty goal is still a work in progress, but if Friday’s Park(ing) event can be used as a measure of the value of green space than this project is an undeniably worthy endeavor.

Friday, September 21st was also the International Day of Peace—and what could be more peaceful than advocating for and hanging out in a parking spot turned green space turned intelligent and thought-provoking park?

Read more on this elevated, city-spanning park system or on TPL Chicago's Park(ing) Day event here and here.