Parking Space a Park for Day

Bustling commuters attempting to park next to Boston’s Government Center MBTA stop on Friday were in for a surprise—one spot had been converted into a park.

The barricaded parking space—adorned with potted plants, flowers, and a bed of grass—offered passersby a chance to sit in the sun as part of the National Park[ing] Day event.

Started in 2005 as a collaboration between Rebar, a San Francisco art collective, and The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation nonprofit, the event is a one-day global event to advocate for the conversion of public spaces into parks and spaces to rest and relax. The event was described by organizers as “a global exploration of the creative potential of streets.”

“[This event] re-imagines what parks can be,” said David T. Queeley, director of the Parks for People New England program, a branch of TPL. “This is a means to begin to promote parks and open spaces in cities.”

Friday’s “park,” arranged in collaboration with Livable Streets Alliance, an organization that works to rethink urban transportation in Boston, was the first of its kind in Boston. Seventy other cities also participated in the event nationwide.

Boston’s park was set up at 8 a.m. by 12 volunteers, including George Zisiadis ’11, who filmed the park as part of his project to promote urban sustainability in Boston.

Some pedestrians, who stopped by simply because they were curious about the incongruous spot of green, ended up drinking their coffee in the park or joining in on a game of Jenga.

“People were curious at first and then really thrilled,” said Jackie K. Douglas, a Boston University graduate who works for the Livable Streets Alliance. “Two girls were so excited, that they ran across the grass barefoot.”

The event was meant to build the necessary momentum and funds to convert more public spaces in the future. “The more you can get people to appreciate the importance of parks, the more you engage them—that paves the road to funding,” Queeley said.

Coordinators hope to expand to 20 spaces in Boston and one in Harvard square by next year.

“People are enjoying themselves, which is the bottom line,” said Livable Streets Board Member Nina Garfinkle. “Instead of driving miserably on big wide streets and being uptight all the time, some people had a chance to lighten up a little bit and enjoy.”

—Staff writer Natasha S. Whitney can be reached at nwhitney@fas.harvard.edu.