Living

Why we're loving micro urban parks

A new trend is quietly annexing parking spots across North America, turning strangers into friends and making the world a little greener.

Introducing the parklet! These minute urban parks are springing up on busy streets, taking over two to three parallel parking spots and replacing pavement with eccentric seating, flowers and art. They’ve been making a green footprint ever since a San Francisco–based design firm put its pocket change to good use and installed a micro park in a metered spot for two hours as an experiment. It’s grown into an initiative backed by cities across the U.S. and has caught on in Canada, all with the goal of reclaiming space for pedestrians, encouraging green transport, beautifying city streets and creating a sense of community.

Though the petite parks are usually sponsored by surrounding businesses, they are steadfastly public. As for their design — aside from complying with some city regulations (like having to be easily removable to provide access to subterranean utilities) — it’s left to the whimsy of their patrons. The result has been a mushrooming of urban oases, from an installation inspired by hot tubs to a repurposed Citroën van and a Dumpster-inspired garden. Though cute, they have vexed some who see parking places as a precious commodity in squeezed cities. But with parklets only growing in popularity, it looks like pedestrians have won a victory in the urban turf war.

1. In the round 

This oversized cedar hot tub is the gem in Vancouver’s fast-growing parklet program.

Photo by Paul Krueger/ Flickr

Photo by Paul Krueger/ Flickr

2. Eco-chic

True to the parklet’s focus on recycled materials, this space in San Francisco is constructed from reclaimed wood.

 

October-2013-San-Francisco-parklet

3. Vibrant oasis

These brightly painted parklets on Toronto’s  Church Street have replaced 15 parking spots.

October-2013-Church-St-Toronto-parklet

4. Rustic retreat

Urban Pasture is a quiet spot on Vancouver’s busy Robson Street where pedestrians can graze and rest downtown.

Photo by Janis Nicolay

Photo by Janis Nicolay