September 19, 2010

Landscape Architecture Students Educate Public About Urban Green Spaces

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On Friday afternoon, Cornellians in Collegetown may have been surprised to find a patch of artificial turf in the familiar metered parking spot outside of Schwartz Center.

Outlined by plants on loan from Cayuga Landscape and Plantsmen, this year’s PARK(ing) spot incorporated lawn chairs, small tables and a solar panel donated by the American Society for the Conservation of Resources. Passersby were invited to stay a while, relax in the unconventional seating area and get a feel for what green space is all about.

This is the third year that Cornell has participated in PARK(ing) Day, an international phenomenon spawned from the think tank of the Rebar Corporation. The company is based in San Francisco, a city where concrete dominates the terrain and parking consumes 70 percent of downtown outdoor space. Rebar’s intent for the PARK(ing) Day project is to bring more attention to the need for urban green space and to improve the conditions of daily urban life.

Last year more than 700 parks were constructed in 140 cities, 21 countries, over six continents as PARK(ing) Day continued to spread its mantra of how positive an effect a tiny green space can have on the community that it serves.

Leigh McGonagle ’10, organizer for the American Society of Landscape and Architecture’s PARK(ing) Day celebration, said, “Green space is about feeling safe, seeing a place to sit and taking advantage of it. It is not about a square foot ratio. Planned or unplanned [green space] is about how you use it.”

Nevertheless, green spaces in metropolitan areas can sometimes be misconstrued as inefficient and underexploited space. Some argue that cities should be upheld as a place of business and parks should be kicked to the outskirts of town.

However, according to “Parks, Open Space and Recreation,” an article by Kathleen Imbriano grad ’10, city parks are actually frequented more often than their state counterparts due to their close proximity to people’s homes. A study by the Center for City Park Excellence found that New York’s Central Park receives between 20 and 25 million visitors a year — more than five times the yearly tourist count at the Grand Canyon.

“Cornell’s PARK(ing) Day is more of a sharing of ideas than anything else,” McGonagle said.

Original Author: Kayla DeLeon