Want to sit in the park a little bit longer? Put some change in the meter.
If you drove by the intersection of Broadway and Pearl Street in downtown Eugene Friday and wondered why two parking spaces were occupied by a row of potted plants, some trees and a couple of small outdoor-cafe-like tables, Colin McArthur has an answer for you.
“The intent is to highlight the need for parks and open space in an urban environment,” said McArthur, a planner with Cameron McCarthy Gilbert & Scheibe, a Eugene landscape architecture firm. Eugene needs more parks and open space downtown, a lot more, McArthur said.
The effort was part of National Park(ing) Day. Begun in San Francisco in 2005 by an art collective known as Rebar, the event was held in more than 80 U.S. cities this year. In Portland, organizers created a park out of 12 parking spaces that later turned into a block party complete with live music and a beer garden Friday night.
The event is sponsored each year by the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, community gardens, historic sites, rural lands and other natural places.
“I think this is excellent,” said Donna Berg, a Eugene gardener who came by Friday. She believes in the “whole concept of making more green space out of parking space,” she said. “I wish more people in town were doing this.”
Several motorists and their passengers had curious looks on their faces as they passed the makeshift park. About 11:30 a.m., some 30 people were milling about, enjoying coffee and pastries donated by nearby Full City, McArthur said. Pavers were donated by Willamette Graystone of Eugene, sod by Rexius, plants and trees by Nursery Net and furniture by employees of Cameron, et al.
“Parks and open space help create a more livable environment,” said McArthur, a 31-year-old University of Oregon graduate who grew up in Wasco, a small town in Sherman County. Seventy percent of outdoor space in American downtowns is devoted to cars, he said. But downtown parks should be considered infrastructure as necessary as anything else. Eugene’s downtown only has a small strip of grass by the Downtown Park Blocks, he said. With the revitalization of downtown a hot-button topic now, creating more park space should be high on the city’s priority list, McArthur said.
“And a lot of people have said, `This looks like it belongs,'” he said of the responses of passers – by. “And that’s the point – it does belong.”
Byline: Mark Baker, The Register-Guard