A couple of years ago, when we were all a-flutter over the opening of Manhattan’s High Line park, we may have mentioned that other US cities were bouncing around similar plans (though I’m having trouble finding it!). Even out here in flyover country, the concept of converting Old North St. Louis’ Ironhorse Trestle into an elevated green space is (slowly) taking shape. But Philadelphia may well be the next city to implement such a development: according to The Philadelphia Daily News, “The city is in talks with Reading International Co. to take control of the larger section of the [Reading Viaduct],” and plans are going forward on another section already owned by the city’s transit agency.
In 1929, Emory Stubblefield opened a salvage yard; in 1944, he moved it to Walla Walla, Washington. Like most junk yards, Stubblefield’s was full of rusting cars, old tires, scrap metal… the typical detritus you’d associate with such a business. Just before Emory’s death at the age of 94 in 2008, he and his children took the business in a new direction: metal and scrap recycling… plus nature habitat.
If you’re an urbanite, you likely think of nature as something that exists outside of the city limits. That thinking is prevalent, and may contribute to the growth of nature deficit disorder among our kids… and ourselves. “Nature,” however, is all around us, and city government officials, planners, and community advocates are realizing that actively incorporating green spaces into urban settings makes for more livable environments (remember the High Line?).
Turns out the High Line isn’t the only green space reclamation project going on in New York City: on Staten Island, the Department of Parks and Recreation, along with a host of other city and state agencies, is getting started on transforming the Fresh Kills landfill into a park. When completed in 2036, Freshkills Park “will be almost three times the size of Central Park and the largest park developed in New York City in over 100 years.”
Had a chance to watch HIGH LINE STORIES yet? If so, you’ve witnessed not only how abandoned infrastructure can be transformed into useful green space, but also how community activists, officials, and even celebrities can come together and organize a project of this magnitude. The contributions of all players provide a model for empowering other budding change agents.
But what if you simply don’t have the time, or other resources, to spearhead an effort like the High Line? Creating change in your community doesn’t have to involve months or years of full-time work… in fact, it may be as simple as claiming a parking space.
That’s the idea behind Park(ing) Day, an initiative created by San Francisco-based art collective Rebar in 2005. The premise is simple: on a single day, citizens transform metered parking spaces into Park(ing) spaces, or “temporary public parks.” While these parks only last for a day, the idea is to get people discussing green space in their communities… and how parking is often a bigger priority than parks.