Iowa City to participate in PARK(ing) Day for first time


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In parking spaces around the world, today brings change. Parks are popping up in place of cars. For the first time, the University of Iowa is participating in the annual event “PARK(ing) Day.”

Invented in 2005 by Rebar, a studio based in San Francisco, PARK(ing) Day is meant to challenge the way people think about how land is used by changing metered parking spaces into anything besides a parking space. Last year. 162 cities participated in 35 countries on six continents. The annual event occurs on the third Friday of every September.

“I really think that PARK(ing) Day is meant to provoke a dialogue, in a fun way, about our urban environment,” said Liz Christiansen, the director of the UI Office of Sustainability.

The UI Urban Planning Student Association brought PARK(ing) Day here, and it will take over four spaces in front of the IMU from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. One parking space will hold a miniature farmers’ market, and another will house an artist painting a bench.

“I am hoping that someone will pass by the IMU, and maybe people are a little angry that they can’t park there — but at the same time people will be exposed to gardening or parking that they wouldn’t normally be exposed to,” said Jeremy Spiwak, the head of the UI Student Garden.

It seems the people of Johnson County are making changes to their transportation habits. The number of automobile registrations in 2011 is a decrease from 2008, from 58,184 to 57,748, according to Iowa Department of Transportation records. The number of those requesting a parking permit has also gone down.

However, Johnson County Treasurer Tom Kriz said these numbers might be misleading because officials do not know how many students have cars registered in their hometowns.

“We have no way of knowing how many cars are moving around in Iowa City that aren’t registered here,” Kriz said.

Officials hope to decrease the number of cars on the road.

“This event helps highlight that there are alternative ways of getting to work and school, including biking, walking, and taking the bus,” said Kris Ackerson, assistant transportation planner for Iowa City.

Jeremy Endsley, an officer of the Urban and Regional Planning Student Association, agrees.

“We are just hoping to get people to think about biking more, maybe not using their cars if they don’t have to,” he said.

Part of PARK(ing) Day’s message is that the current structure of urban environments are neither sustainable nor promote healthy living.

“Because more and more of us are living in urban areas, we realize that these things are important to us — that quality of life is important to us,” Christiansen said.

Officials said PARK(ing) Day ultimately hopes to inspire change by showing fun alternatives to the norm.

“We ask that people open their minds a little bit to the fact that this isn’t the way it has to be, with cars and parking everywhere, and we have choices with what to do with our land,” Spiwak said.

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