HUNTINGTON — It’s not every day in Huntington that people can lose parking spots to a canoe, a seesaw and a pingpong table.
However, Friday was “PARK(ing) Day,” an annual event in which the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District converts four metered parking spaces on 11th Street, near Heritage Station, into a “popup park.” The metered spots became a miniature playground this year, complete with a swing, a picnic area and two lawn gnomes.
The purpose of the event was to call attention to the need for more urban, open spaces and to generate debate about how public space is created and allocated. It’s part of a global movement that first came to Huntington three years ago, said Lauren Carte, development and recreation manager for the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District.
Carte said the event is about celebrating access to green spaces within urban areas.
“There’s not a lot of opportunity for folks who work in town to come out on their lunch breaks and find places to recreate,” she said.
Each yea r, t he Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District tries a different theme, including last year when it set up a kiddie pool. This year, they wanted to go with a traditional playground theme.
“It really tickles people to come out and see a giant boat in the street and to be able to get on the seesaw on their lunch break,” she said.
Carte said the popup park generates overwhelmingly positive interactions and no one seems upset at the loss of parking spots.
“There’s something visually appealing about it,” she said. “It’s kind of artistic in a way.”
Planning for the PARK(ing) Day event begins a few months in advance, with the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District checking out what other organizations around the world are doing to celebrate.
Artists in Portland, Oregon, set up mini-art galleries, while organizers in Houston, Texas, set up picnic benches complete with AstroTurf, according to the PARK(ing) Day website.
PARK(ing) Day, held on the third Friday each September, was created in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space downtown into a temporary public park. Since then, the day has evolved into a movement with organizations and artists around the world creating temporary public spaces in their cities.
Carte said she hopes the event continues to expand throughout Huntington next year. Previously, the district set up parks in Pullman Square before taking up temporary residence on 11th Street. Carte said she wants to bring the popup parks to the city’s various neighborhoods.
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.