Worldwide phenomenon makes its way to Dowagiac
Published 9:45 am Thursday, September 17, 2015
Normally just an unassuming strip of pavement, the corner of Front and Beeson streets will be transformed Friday afternoon into a public space the entire community can enjoy.
From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., volunteers with the city and other local organizations will offer a number of activities for visitors to the downtown intersection, as Dowagiac takes part in the international Parking Day event for the first time. Residents are invited to the makeshift public park that afternoon, where they can play a round of tetherball, help design and make a community scarecrow and enjoy some freshly picked fall apples.
Helping city officials coordinate the event are employees with Benton Harbor-based Wightman & Associates, which is assisting communities across southwest Michigan with creating their own temporary parks across the region, such as Buchanan, Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. The engineering and surveying firm will have representatives at each site, who will ask questions to visitors about what they like about their town, and what kind of things they would like to see added or improved, said Jamie Balkin, director of marketing with Wightman.
“It’s a great way to help the communities that we partner with to get interesting feedback,” Balkin said.
These communities are just a handful of the over 150 cities across 35 countries participating in 2015 Parking Day. Started in 2005 in San Francisco, the annual celebration promotes the creation of public spaces such as parks or green space in urban environments, and how these spaces can coexist with parking lots, sidewalks and other city structures.
Wightman introduced Parking Day to southwest Michigan last year, transforming several spots in downtown St. Joseph into temporary parks, Balkin said.
“It went really well last year,” she said. “For a pilot year, it was awesome. The feedback and exposure we got was great.”
Buoyed by the success, officials with the firm reached out to several other cities they work with to promote similar events in their communities — including Dowagiac.
Though the city already offers several public parks and spaces throughout its limits, officials decided to jump on board the event, in part to showcase some of the community’s most renowned assets, said Bobbie Jo Hartline, an organizer with the city of Dowagiac.
“We decided we would draw attention to two things we are proud of: our sports and our art,” Hartline said.
It’s also a way for officials to hear directly from the citizens they serve, whose comments and suggestions could help shape future city projects.
“Any feedback we receive is an opportunity to improve,” Hartline said. “Here’s an opportunity for citizens to make their voice heard, in a fun, casual atmosphere.”
Dohm’s Pat-ch Greenhouse and Creekside Greenhous will assist the city and Wightman & Associates in sponsoring Parking Day festivities.