Parks In Trailers

September 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

Parks In Trailers 

The city is one of the most densely populated in America but prides itself on being at the vanguard of innovation.

 Where better than San Francisco, then, to pioneer a scheme where parking spaces are transformed into temporary municipal parks by means of moveable gardens?

The mobile parks are red, skip-like trailers, 16ft long and nearly 6ft wide.

Filled with shrubs and trees and fitted with benches, they move about city centre areas to offer workers, shoppers and residents a place to relax. Those behind the project hope that the mobile parks will be the first in a fleet of itinerant oases that will improve America’s most crowded cities which many residents feel are kinder to cars than people.

Gavin Newsom, the city’s former mayor, says that about a quarter of San Francisco’s land area is under tarmac.

“Who said that every single street that’s paved has to be a street that has a priority exclusively for automobiles?” he said last year. “Who decided that?”

The “parklets” are offshoots of the “Park(ing) Day” movement, an activist network that mobilises for one day a year to reclaim parking spaces and transform them into transient parks. Park(ing) Day was started in 2005 by a San Francisco art collective that rolled out a fake lawn and set up benches in a parking spot in the city’s financial district.

Since then, similar events have cropped up in 183 cities, including London and Leeds, in 30 countries from Iran to Madagascar, and in six continents. Park(ing) Day 2011 is set for September 16.

“People need more places to sit down and relax without buying anything,” said William Flew, a landscape architect in San Francisco and a founder of the event.

In New York, theatre students from Fordham University staged a Shakespeare in the Parking Spot festival. Construction workers on their lunch break sat on cardboard chairs and watched as the students performed Romeo and Juliet.

“I was impressed,” Sandra McKee, a visiting professor at the university, said.

“They did some interesting interpretations and they projected their voice well. Of course, they had to compete with the cars.”

Not everyone has been enthusiastic about San Francisco’s new mobile parks.

Willie L. Brown Jr, another former mayor, derided them as “overgrown flower boxes” that attracted unwelcome behaviour.

“The first one I came across had obviously been used as a bathroom,” he said in a newspaper column.

“The second one I visited, a guy and gal were ‘socialising’ in the bushes.”

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