Drivers passing the Bank of America on the University of Virginia’s corner today may have been surprised to see a parking space occupied by students sitting on pillows surrounded by plants, tables and a hammock.
The occupation was in celebration of PARK(ing) Day, a national event held on the third Friday of September that transforms parking spots into temporary parks.
“I wanted to do it because I’m a huge advocate for biking and walking,” said Mary Butcher, President of the Student Planning Association at UVa.
The goal of PARK(ing) day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space. The annual event that started in San Francisco has spread across the county. The students said it was first year it was being celebrated on grounds.
“It’s to show citizens and other people what this space could be used for. We are all about creating more spaces for people to interact, especially in areas like the corner where it’s always nice to have more outdoor seating,” explained Butcher.
Technically, this particular spot occupied for the day did not have much in the way of four-wheeled competition – it’s currently a no parking zone. However, its highly visible location helped spread the message of PARK(ing) Day.
This also allowed for the group to post up for majority of the day. Participants of PARK(ing) Day in other cities transform parking spaces for the allowed time then pick up and move on.
Butcher made clear the movement is not advocating that all parking spaces have to be eliminated. She cited the author of Walkable City who paid a visit to town earlier this month at the invitation of Charlottesville Tomorrow.
“When Jeff Speck came to speak he mentioned that parking spots are good, but these little parklets are a great way for people to use the space and have a parking spot right next to them,” said Butcher.
The City of Charlottesville is currently updating plans for the West Main Street streetscape and she hopes that more parklets will show up there.
“I know a lot of parking spaces have been taken over for bike parking which is great because we don’t have enough of that,” said Butcher, “but I really would hope that the City’s citizens realize this is a great way to use space.”
The students used social media, tweeting and posting on Instagram about the event, while professors and students passed by.
One professor gave a talk about transportation and what parking spaces could be used for. Butcher handed out brochures to people in their cars who wanted to know what was going on.
Next year Butcher hopes that more parking lot spaces will be taken over in the annual celebration and that the Student Planning Association will eventually convert a spot permanently.
“Just to get people talking is a great thing and maybe one day we will have a couple more parking spaces taken over,” said Butcher.