Pop-up park isn’t permanent but should be
Novel idea to bring a park to downtown community, but why not just build the darn park
Last Tuesday my daughter invited me to the beach with the kids. Yippee, I thought, that could be fun. Long story really short, we decided a city park was a better idea and thought the wading pool at Gage Park would do the trick. She picked me up and we drove past the great big park one block from my house, Victoria Park, with it’s swimming pool, splash pad, tennis courts, baseball diamond and lots of green grass and tall trees, and made our way through the city.
As we travelled east along York, I suddenly remembered a Facebook post I saw that morning about a Pop-up-Park at John and Rebecca and we decided to check it out. We circled around and found a parking spot kitty-corner to the park and next to a lot overgrown with weeds with a couple of police cars parked inside, which did not look good, by the way. I put coins into what apparently was a broken parking meter; only 10 minutes registered for my $1.50, while my daughter unpacked the kids and stroller.
We wandered over to the party happening in the parking lot, behind a white picket fence and under the brilliant hot July sun. There were some kids playing with hula hoops and some balls, people milling around. There were several shade umbrellas with important looking people under them. It was hot, blazing hot; the sun’s heat reflected back off the asphalt, despite the green astro-turf that covered part of the surface. We needed a place for the kids to sit and have a snack and found a table under an umbrella, but it wasn’t much shade. To be honest, it was boring for the kids, nothing for them to do, really, and I felt bad wanting to stay and listen to the speeches, but I did because, well, I was curious and my daughter rocks.
If you haven’t heard about it yet, a pop-up park, consisting of astro-turf, picnic tables and a few umbrellas, has been set up on the corner of a parking lot that was rezoned for a park in 2010. The purpose is to bring attention to the space and get people thinking about it in a different way, as a park. And, perhaps more importantly, to get Council to finally approve the funding necessary to move ahead, acquire land and build the park. I was having a hard time with the concept. The land was zoned for a park in 2010. The community, Hamilton’s poorest and greatest at-risk community, is barren of any significant green space and a park has been promised for years for the people who have bought into the area. How hard can it be to turn a parking lot into a park? You’d think it would be a simple matter. The city already owns the land, with the exception of the property along King William, which, if Council had moved on the property in 2010, I can bet and win money that the land acquisition costs would be significantly less.
The cost of the pop-up park is a total of $95,000; $75,000 from the Patrick J. McNally Foundation paid for the materials and Councillor Jason Farr’s office paid $20,000 to compensate Parking for the lost revenue. Really Parking? You couldn’t contribute anything to our city’s vision and had to be bought off ? Maybe Parking needs the money to fix the street meters. So, to recap, almost $100,000 went to a promotional campaign to get Council to do what it said it was going to do when it designated the parking lot as a park. It should be noted that Council approved the pop-up park event in March. Council voted to support a PR activity designed to influence Council toward doing what Council is supposed to do. And funding from a charity was found to pay the price. Got that? We stopped by on our way home to see if anyone was using the park. It was empty, but the residential facility across the street had a number of people standing in a small sliver of shade in front of their building, smoking on the sidewalk. Well, I guess the park isn’t for them though, is it? Smokers.
Pop-up is fun, everyone’s jumping on the pop-up trend, but the money, and it was a lot, could have been better spent ripping up a couple of parking spots and planting the first tree, put in a few benches. Make it permanent, plant a toehold that unmistakably says this is a park. Install a water fountain.
As for Council, are you paying attention yet? Do your job; build the park.
Margaret Shkimba is a writer who lives in Hamilton. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can “Friend” her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter (@menrvasofia)