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PARK(ing) Day Returns to Pittsburgh

If you’re noticing parking spaces around the city being taken up by art installations, sitting areas and small “parklets,” it’s because Friday is international PARK(ing) Day.

This is Pittsburgh’s sixth year celebrating the day, which highlights how public spaces and parks improve the community. The installations are meant to turn urban spaces designed for vehicle use into communal space.

This year there are 20 registered spaces throughout downtown, the Strip District, Lawrenceville, Oakland, and the South Side, compared to 19 in 2008.

Rebecca Susman with Bike Pittsburgh, which has a space set up on Smithfield Street, said they have activities for people stopping by.

“We have a wheel of swag where people can spin to win fun prizes, and we have the ‘I Heart My Bike’ photo booth where people can have their photos taken with their bike and it goes on Flickr, so they can do what they’d like with that photo,” said Susman. “It’s an anti-theft photo booth, so we take the bike’s serial number and identifying info in a private database so that, in case of loss or theft in the future, they have proof that it’s theirs.”

While some spaces have games and prizes, others include demonstrations and educational material. Sara Innamorato, spokesperson for GTECH Strategies, said their space, also on Smithfield Street, highlights the work they do reclaiming vacant land.

“We have a wall dedicated to displaying plants that you would find in a rain garden, because storm water is an issue in the city of Pittsburgh,” Innamorato said. “And then we also have a demo station that shows how parks can help mitigate any overflow of water whenever it storms.”

Thor Erickson, an organizer of PARK(ing) Day said the event gets people thinking about how to use public space.

“Knowing that, right now, the majority of public space is used for parking in downtown," Erickson said. "We just wanted to rethink that, to create pop-up parks, and really have that human interaction so we can start to reconnect with each other in downtown.”