Parking spaces to become city parks for one day in Morgantown - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Parking spaces to become city parks for one day in Morgantown

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By CYNTHIA McCLOUD

For The State Journal

There's a greenspace project taking root in Morgantown.

On Sept. 21, a group of West Virginia University landscape architecture students and volunteers will turn metered parking spaces into temporary public parks.

Organizers call it PARK(ing) Day, and the first of the annual worldwide events was held in 2005 in San Francisco. Other events taking place on six continents, in 35 countries and 162 cities will create nearly 1,000 parks on Sept. 21.

"The intent is to take over a metered spot," said WVU assistant professor Angela Campbell, one of the organizers, who has participated in numerous PARK(ing) Days in the past.

"This allows people to understand the importance of public space within the street right-of way," she said. "Often this is achieved through wide sidewalks or bump-outs that serve as a traffic calming mechanism and public seating areas. We are also considering an alleyway to promote the importance of pocket parks throughout the city.

"The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out," Campbell said.

She is working with Morgantown's Parking Authority to find a safe location that is highly visible. She hopes to find a place on High Street.

Park creators will cover the asphalt with sod, trees, benches — things you find in parks — and invite the public to use and enjoy the space.

"We are hoping to get donations from local businesses," Campbell said. "When I have participated in the past, businesses have donated sod, trees and shrubs, and we have later planted them at a person-in-need's home or at a school. Benches are usually donated for the day. This would be a great marketing opportunity for local businesses to get involved with."

Businesses could benefit in other ways as well.

"Research has shown that walkable cities with public gathering spaces and habitat development improve public health, make people happy and keep people downtown for longer periods, generating revenue for local businesses." 

Morgantown will not lose any revenue while the space is occupied.

"We plan to set up at 8 a.m. and feed the meter all day until the park is dismantled by 5 p.m.," Campbell said.

WVU landscape architecture students are leading the design effort.

"Often people don't understand the design and environmental science components behind our profession and how important our services are to creating healthy, beautiful public spaces," Campbell said. "This is another message we want to get across."

Outside help on the project is welcome and needed.

"This is everyone's community and everyone's voice is important to be heard and seen through design," Campbell said "It is free and always a great time. The more energy we can generate, the more successful the event can be."

To get involved with Morgantown's PARK(ing) Day, contact Campbell at angela.campbell@mail.wvu.edu or (304) 293-5661.

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