I am very excited to see the Harrisonburg Parklet Project take shape today in Downtown. At 1pm artist, residents, students, and professors are coming downtown to take over 13 parking spaces to create their visions of green spaces the encourage unscripted social interaction, design, civic engagement, critical thinking, generosity, and play. The set up will be done by 5pm and open to the public. THIS IS GOING TO BE SO COOL!
So why do a project like this in Harrisonburg?
Green space are very important to the vitality of a community. We need spaces in an urban environment that allow us to breath. These spaces can filter rainwater, give a place to sit and read, a place to build community, and a place for conversation to happen. A healthy downtown needs small and large open spaces where gatherings can happen at various scales. Green spaces provide a refreshing contrast to the harsh shape, color, and texture of buildings alone, and stimulate the senses with their color, sound, smell, and motions. Green spaces foster a connection between community residents and the natural environment that surrounds them, thus allowing for a more livable city. This is essential in order for a community to be sustainable.
Green spaces provide habitat for a variety of birds, fish, animals, insects, and other organisms, while also providing corridors and greenways to link habitats. They prevent soil erosion and absorb rainwater, thereby improving drainage. Trees have been shown to absorb pollutants and reduce noise transfer. Green spaces and their inhabitants are a good indicator of overall ecological health of an ecosystem. This is an important measure in judging the ecological sustainability of the community.
In all walks of life, green space draws people outside and fosters social interaction. Studies have found that residents living near green common spaces have more social activities and more visitors. Green spaces promote safer neighborhoods. When residents have more vested interests in a place, their participation in the community increases and they will watch over the community to protect it. Green Spaces attract more customers for local businesses.
Green spaces are good and we need more of them in Harrisonburg. Design is a tool that can be used to design solutions that benefit the community if it is applied with a holistic vision about what downtown can become rather than just what a site can be today. I hope you will come downtown to the Parklet Project and continue the discussion about community with our artists, residents, students, and professors. If you see me, let me know what you think!