Leaders of the Green Grand Rapids initiative are spearheading West Michigan’s first celebration of National Park(ing) Day as part of an effort to challenge citizens to re-think the way streets are used and reinforce the need for urban open space.
On Friday, Sept. 19, citizens, organizations and businesses transformed metered parking spaces in downtown Grand Rapids into parks, playgrounds, social spaces and other creative places. “It’s a chance for citizens to take our everyday parking spaces and turn them into green space,” said City of Grand Rapids Planning Director Suzanne Schultz. “There is a civil disobedience aspect to it, this is a chance to do something creative and reinvent the public space.”
Conceived by REBAR, a San Francisco-based art collective, Park(ing) Day began in 2005 to celebrate parks and promote the need for more parks in America's cities. In 2006, with support from the Trust for Public Land, Park(ing) Day went international. In 2007, the event created more than 200 temporary “parks” in more than 50 cities worldwide, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, Barcelona and Melbourne.
Individuals and groups planning to participate represent Aquinas College, Conduit Studios, Design+, Freedom Construction, Great Lakes Landscape Supply, Herman Miller, American Society of Interior Design/Kendall College of Art and Design student chapter, Levitation Staging, Michigan State University Extension, Midtown/East Fulton St. Business Association, San Chez, Neighborhood Ventures, Owen Ames and Kimball, the city’s Urban Forest Committee and landscape architect Michele Witkowski, among others.
Park(ing) Day sets the stage for the second of three community forums hosted by Green Grand Rapids, an 18-month project launched by the Planning Department in January to update the city’s 2002 Master Plan with an emphasis on green initiatives. The first community forum was held June 25, Green Gathering: Ideas, attracting more than 200 people to identify areas of improvement for the city’s parks, connections, greening, health, natural systems and the Grand River. The second forum, to be held in October 2008, will focus on “choices.”