By: Davis McCondichie
On Friday, Sept. 18, the residents of Columbia were treated to a brilliant display of innovative infrastructure known as Park(ing) Day. The event transformed Ninth Street parking spaces into public parks sponsored by local companies and artists. Designs ranged from a small craft studio to a bocce ball court. One thing was for certain: the creations that filled the parking spaces brought Ninth Street alive for a short while.
The event started in 2005 along city streets in San Francisco, which made Friday the 10th anniversary. It’s goal, according to the official Park(ing) Day Web site, was to “invite people to rethink the way streets are used and promote discussion around the need for broad-based changes to the urban infrastructure.” The occasion was a chance for people to reclaim the land taken by urban infrastructure, while also showcasing local artisan talent. Park(ing) Day gave residents an insight into a community blended between street and park.
As one Parks and Recreation worker put it, “It is about greenery, not just infrastructure. We want people to get use to the idea of a park in downtown.” To further this end, the local recreation department bought two parking spaces and transformed them by adding park benches encompassed by flowerbeds. Throughout the day, department workers took an hourly count of how many people sat on the benches compared to cars that parked in the spot adjacent to the bench. For every ten people that sat on a bench, one car parked in the adjacent parking spot. These statistics may not be earthshattering but the hope is that it leads residents to wonder what Columbia would be like with a more natural environment setting such as this. Park(in) Day was the first step to making these changes a possibility.
Park(ing) Day may have started out as a small art project, but it has grown into a forum for discussion with local city governments. Despite this effort, minimal visible change can be seen in Columbia over the past 10 years. The last park built in Columbia was Cosmo Park eight years ago. Perhaps it is time for Columbia residents to take this step forward with a little creativity. Downtown has the potential to be an outstanding environmentally friendly college town everyday; not just Park(ing) Day.
Park(ing) Day started the conversation, but it is up to us to continue it.

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E23 Web Director Colleen Sloyan has been with MUTV for three semesters now. She is studying for a Bachelor of Journalism and a minor in Business.