Cascade Land Conservancy/Feet First park along 2nd Ave.
As I stood at 2nd Ave between Union and University talking to PARK(ing) Day organizer Max Hepp-Buchanan, a big white pickup truck rolled to a stop next to the temporary park installation. The driver rolled down the window and hollered, "What are you guys doing here?"
An enthusiastic park volunteer yelled back, "It's PARK(ing) Day!"
"Nope, you're being a bunch of faggots," the truck driver countered as he drove away.
Clearly not everyone is excited about PARK(ing) Day, an annual event at which volunteers convert metered parking spaces into temporary, miniature public parks. But since it began in San Francisco in 2005 (with a single converted park), PARK(ing) Day has grown into an international movement. Seattle joined in three years ago with four parks. Last year, 140 cities in 21 countries hosted a combined total of 744 parks (Seattle had 45).
Cascade Bicycle Club's park on Union St.
I swung by a handful of Seattle's nearly 70 parks this morning. They featured croquet and bocce, handouts and info booths from green urbanist types such as Alleycat Acres, the Cascade Land Conservancy, Streets for All Seattle, and Feet First. Cascade Bicycle Club's park featured a bike-powered smoothie blender (unfortunately, it wasn't in action when I was there: No smoothies for BikeNerd).
"PARK(ing) Day is really just about taking space that's usually about cars and making it about people," said Hepp-Buchanan.
According to Hepp-Buchanan, 20 percent of land in the average American city is dedicated to cars, in the form of public parking and roads. In Seattle, that figure is 28 percent.
Streets For All Seattle's Craig Benjamin says PARK(ing) Day is an attempt to rethink public space. "It comes back to a basic question: Who are the streets for? It's public space, it's everyones right of way."
Hepp-Buchanan hopes PARK(ing) day will help spark people's imaginations. "Even though it's only for one day, it gives Seattle a taste of what our city could be like with more dedicated public land and more public parks."
PARK(ing) Day parks will be up until 3 pm today. A post-PARK(ing) Day party will be held at 6 pm in the converted parking lot at the corner of Belmont and Pine on Capitol Hill.