On Friday morning four new parks opened in downtown Dayton. They were small - about 200 square feet- and they were in the street. That's because September 17th was PARK(ing) Day. Dayton joined cities around the world participating in the grassroots movement that transforms metered parking spots into mini green spaces for one day only.
Here's how it works: people around the world pick a metered parking spot in their community. They feed the meter all day to rent the spot which gets transformed into a small park.
"Basically a parking space is a cheap little piece of real estate that you can rent for the day for about eight bucks here in Dayton, and you can do whatever you want," says Lisa Helm.
Helm is the program manager for Garden Station, a downtown community garden. Garden Station has led Dayton's PARK(ing) Day efforts for two years. This year they arranged for each of the sites to feature grass donated by a private company and potted plants on loan from Five Rivers MetroParks.
In addition to the plants, Garden Station's spot featured checkers, jump ropes and other games. Helm says that the event gives people a chance to interact differently in an urban area.
"I think the whole point of parking day is about more green space for people and less space for cars," says Helm.
"We've had a lot of drivers stopping and asking us what's going on."
Dayton City Commissioner Nan Whaley was also thinking about green spaces. She was at the parking spot in front of City Hall.
"I think we have a lot of green space across the city and it's really a matter of people engaging with it. We have a lot of opportunities for urban gardens and for prairies and for things like Garden Station and we really need people to take the initiative to say I want to do something with that space,'" says Whaley.
The City Hall parking spot highlighted recent bike friendly initiatives with representatives from the cycling community. But it was the sight of the trees and grass in the street that got most people's attention.
Steve Wilson spent a lot of time explaining PARK(ing) Day to people. He was staffing the space sponsored by the Dayton Metro Library. There were free books and cookies under a tent, but most people were didn't get quite that far.
"We've had a lot of drivers stopping and asking us what's going on..."
And right as Wilson said that, a car pulled up alongside the space and a woman stuck her head out to ask what was happening. Wilson explained that they were celebrating green space and hoping to brighten up the city.
"People are also walking up and stopping by for a chat and maybe to get some free books," says Wilson.
"It was pretty eye opening for me."
Lauyn Campanell spend the day touring the PARK(ing) Day sites. For her, the event meant more than bicycles, free books or even green space.
"I got a chance to see Dayton in a way I don't ever see it. I don't think most people come to downtown Dayton just to walk around, I spent my day off walking around and thinking this city is so beautiful and there's so much architecture to see and so much life and so many different people. It was pretty eye opening for me. I felt like I was in a real city.
At 5:30 in the afternoon, the parks closed. The donated grass will live on at Garden Station and the parking spots are back to being used for cars until PARK(ing) Day 2011.