Pocket Parks

So I was thinking…or so goes the line. We have a couple of great spaces where we could have little “pocket parks” right in the downtown area. In a way, that is what TORCH is working to do, but I am also thinking about true greenspaces compared to a boardwalk. What is a pocket park? According to an article by Alison Blake, “pocket parks, also known as minipark or vest-pocket parks, are urban open space at the very small scale. Usually only a few house lots in size or smaller, pocket parks can be tucked into and scattered throughout the urban fabric where they serve the immediately local population.” Philadelphia was one of the first cities to do it. Savannah has a whole series of them. Now cities, big and small, are coming together through community activism, foundations, and public-private partnerships to install these little gems anywhere there is vacant lot that might currently be an eye soar, or a hidden away and forgotten space that you only consider from time to time. In fact, Hartwell already has a large version at the incredible Botanical Garden. If you haven’t been, you really must! The flowers are blooming, there are trails to walk, and even a playground for the kids to play on. It is a perfect park. What I am advocating is for a miniature (or several miniature) versions around the downtown area. There are places, both on and off the square that are within walking distance that would be ideal. It will take some work though. Convincing folks is the first task. The investment is worth it! The economic benefits of greenspace in communities is not questionable. But never mind that, “greenery within pocket parks can help regulate microclimates and act as the ‘lungs’ of the city, while permeable surfaces increase infiltration.” Alison’s article goes on to talk about how smaller “pocket parks” within walking distance of a city center, reduce wear and tear on bigger parks where active play might take away from their ecological functions. Investments in these parks create a win-win. You can enjoy your lunch outdoors, bigger parks won’t need as many resources devoted to repair, and the ecosystem benefits in many ways. I wonder if there are any other like-minded folks that want to build a coalition and start a pocket park? A little effort will go a long way.

2 Replies to “Pocket Parks”

  1. Before Dan Parker passed away, he and I used to talk about how easy it would be to fence off both sides of that green space behind the Art Center & what is now Southern Hart Brewery. The plan was simply: clean up the lot, fertilize for healthy grass, put out a bench or two, and have a tiny, fenced, leash free area for dogs. I bring my dogs to work often, as do several downtown business owners, including the brewery now that it is open. Doggie Dos backs right up to that area. A lot of us walk our dogs back there already! If we were to follow through on that simple plan, do you think the City would put that area on the maintenance schedule when they cut the Courthouse?

    1. It would take a public-private partnership for sure, and I am not certain who technically owns that space. Although, I think I do. It is one of the areas I was thinking of. The trick is to have a solution to the problem when we present it to the stakeholders. I think as long as users (dog owners and non-dog owners) clean up after themselves, the stakeholders that would need to be involved would all feel like pitching in to take care of the park would be something they could get behind. As far as courthouse maintenance, that is actually the County and not the city. Everything outside of the wall is city and inside the wall is county. That said, your point is well taken. Care for the park, wherever it is, will need to have a certain amount of involvement from the city. That involvement might only come in the form of ordinances like “leash free” zone. I can’t really speak for the council. I’m speculating, but it would likely fall under DDA-Main Street Program. The really good news is, it has been done all over the country, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel. We just have to ask how they did it.

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