New-Orleans-celebrates-public-spaces-at-first-Parking-Day

New Orleans celebrates public spaces at first Park(ing) Day

Four sections of New Orleans' city streets became pop-up green spaces for one day this September. It was the first year that local residents organized events for Park(ing) Day, setting up camp in four spots throughout the city that drew hundreds of participants and interested passers-by.

Since 2005, Park(ing) Day has called attention to the need for more urban open space by transforming metered parking spaces into temporary public parks in the U.S. and abroad.

Though conceived in San Francisco, the annual event is celebrated internationally now.

In New Orleans, more than 350 residents and organizers participated by dancing, cooking, picking up informational materials or sitting to enjoy the public spaces. Organizers included the KidsWalk Coalition, whose lead agency is the Tulane Prevention Research Center. The coalition became involved because, if streets are made to support physical activity, communities will reduce the risk for obesity and the illnesses it causes.

"PARK Day demonstrates how simple changes to our streets make a big difference in the way residents can live healthier lives," said Matt Rufo, KidsWalk Coalition program manager. "Our street network is our city's largest public space, and by giving so much room in it just for parking cars, we take away space for other public uses, such as walking and bicycling."

Creating a temporary green space is also an inexpensive and visual way to show how public spaces add value to a community, said Alan Williams, who works for Transport for NOLA, a nonprofit aiming to create a more robust transportation system.

"The great part of parking day and the reason it's successful everywhere is that people have a hard time visualizing how things can be different," Williams said as he sat with friends in a Park(ing) Day space created in the 3000 block of Magazine Street.

New Orleans' Park(ing) Day has also served as a catalyst for collaboration between lots of local organizations working for the same issues, Williams said.

For business owner Katrina Turillo, the event boosted sales as attendees congregated outside her store, La Divina Gelateria on Magazine Street.

"It's also a great pairing," Turillo said. "As a sustainable business owner, it's a really good match."

For information on Park(ing) Day, visit parkingday.org.

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