BY LEIGH MCDONALD — Ordinary asphalt parking spots were turned into temporary public oases in Hyattsville on Friday for PARK(ing) Day, an annual event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into temporary public places.
This was the first year the city participated in the international event.
The city organized four pop-up parks across town: coffee and donuts in the morning at Queens Chapel Town Center; a “beach” with fruit cups, leis and beach balls at lunchtime at University Town Center; a collaborative painting with Art Works in the Arts District in the afternoon; and lawn games during Summer Jam.
Katie Gerbes, community planner for the city, brought the idea to her team last year. She said she recalls learning about the event in graduate school for community planning.
The Department of Community & Economic Development brainstormed themes for each site. They wanted something “fun and quirky” where residents could “sit and hangout,” said Jim Chandler, the director of community and economic development.
“We wanted it to be quick enough so that someone just walking by could enjoy it but also comfortable enough and fun enough so folks who want to spend a longer period can spend their lunch break here,” said Gerbis.
The staff, which included Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, loaded and unloaded the set of astroturf, pallet furniture made by Code & Parking Compliance Manager Chris Giunta, and plants donated by BrightView Landscape services, at each stop. Gerbis said the sturdy, wooden furniture was intended to create a buffer between the people and the traffic.
“We wanted to give people something a little fun for their Friday,” Chandler said.
Some passersby seemed skeptical at first, but after learning what the event was about, many joined in. The coffee and donuts at the city’s first stop seemed to be the most popular of the day. One couple who had just moved to the area from England were surprised when staff called them over. “They don’t do this for us in England,” they joked.
The planning committee is hopeful the city will celebrate PARK(ing) Day next year, with sponsorship from local businesses.