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

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT -

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 men­r­va­sofia@gmail.com or you can “Friend” her on Face­book and fol­low her on Twit­ter (@men­r­va­sofia)

MAR­GARET SHKIMBA

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