Sunday At The Park (With George)

We took a walk around Goodale Park tonight. It’s a beautiful park with a lovely little pond in the northeast corner, and it was getting a lot of use tonight. I like the view over the pond, with the high rises of north downtown just visible over the treetops.

Parks add so much to a neighborhood!

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On The Commons

The old ball game didn’t end well for the Indians, but Russell and I have enjoyed our trip to Boston nevertheless. After leaving Fenway Park we walked around Boston and visited the Boston Commons and the Public Garden, both of which were packed with people. Families, tourists, people leaving work, joggers, people reading on the grass on a sunny day with a delightful breeze — all were drawn to the green space.

It made me realize, again, what value there is to cities in having downtown parkland where people can gather. And a few fountains and monuments don’t hurt, either.

The Value Of A Park

Living near Schiller Park — a sprawling, 150-year-old green space that covers multiple city blocks and is home to mature trees, picnic tables, lots of shade, a duck pond, a rec center, tennis courts, a playground, an outdoor basketball court, and a stage where the Actors Theatre of Columbus performs on summer evenings — has really shown me the value that a park brings to a community.

German Village has a very strong and distinctive neighborhood feel, and Schiller Park is a big part of that.  The park  is constantly in use, from the joggers and dog walkers who circle it in the early morning hours to the mid-day basketball and tennis players and parents pushing their kids ever higher on the swings, to the late afternoon birthday parties on the picnic tables beneath huge shade trees and people reading books on benches or playing fetch with their dogs.  You see the same people over and over, which of course reinforces the feeling of community, and you take pride in this beautiful patch of green that draws people like a magnet.  German Village without Schiller Park wouldn’t really be German Village at all.

In the American neighborhoods built before 1900, parks were of course part of the design — because green space and parkland were traditional in the countries of Europe from which many Americans of that era immigrated.  I’m sure the German immigrants who gave German Village its name never gave a second thought to putting in a large park, because it was just expected and obvious.  

At some point after 1900, though, the builders of suburban communities saw parks as less necessary, whether it was because they figured people would be driving around and not interested in walking to a park, or because they concluded that the acreage of a park could be more profitably devoted to still more houses.  As a result, many suburban communities are seriously park-deprived.  

It’s too bad, because a nice park really makes a difference and brings a lot of value to a neighborhood.

On The Old Commons


Established back in the early 1600s, the Commons remains a popular gathering spot for the people of Boston — and its tourists.  Along with the Boston Public Garden, located right next door, the Commons provides a merry-go-round, a frog pond, a towering memorial to the Bostonians who fought in the War Between the States — and some of the shady, grassy spots that city dwellers crave on a hot summer day.

The Parklet On Our Block

IMG_1105At the west end of our block of Gay Street, next to the intersection with High Street, a kind of wooden module sits on the street adjacent to Cafe Brioso.  It’s pill shaped, and with its unfinished wood it looks like something you might find on a Fourth of July parade float or as the project of a high school wood shop class.  The outward-facing side of the object has a pink-paint-and-green-shrub “PARKT” sign — with the pink letters spelling “art” — and some plants along a ledge at the top.

It’s called a “parklet.”  The sign on the object explains that parklets are intended to “creatively and temporarily transform parking spaces into open public spaces,” where people can sit, relax, rest, and watch the street life go by — and sure enough, the parklet on our block features benches and stools.  The sign adds that parklets are “a new dynamic that will generate more interesting and engaging public spaces for Columbus, Ohio.”  The sign identifies corporate and community sponsors that presumably underwrote the cost of building and moving the parklet and occupying a parking space.

“Parklets” are an interesting idea that, if the results of my Google search are to be believed, started in San Francisco, where they are part of a “pavement to parks” initiative, and have been adopted by some other cities, including Columbus.  The parklet on our block looks as if it has been designed to be picked up, put on a flatbed truck, and moved to a new location where more public seating space is desired.

I’m all for increasing public seating space in our downtown, but I’d like to see Columbus take the next step and acquire some of the surface parking lots that are found downtown and turn them into pocket parks.  A parklet is a nice idea, but an actual park with green trees, shaded walkways and seating, and perhaps a fountain would be even better.

We’ve got some downtown green space — like the Statehouse lawn, Columbus Commons, the Scioto Mile, and the Topiary Gardens — but the section of downtown north of Broad Street is pretty much parkless.  (I don’t count Sensenbrenner Park, which is mostly concrete.)  With more people moving downtown to live, they will be looking for places to jog, work on their yoga poses, or just sit and read a book as the breeze ruffles through the trees above.  Even a small chunk of new green space, like the Ohio Police and Fire Memorial Park at the corner of Third and Town, would be welcome.

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At The Ohio Police & Fire Memorial Park

IMG_0926There are lots of parks tucked here and there in downtown Columbus.  One of the least visited ones is the Ohio Police & Fire Memorial Park, located at the corner of South Third and East Town streets.  That’s a shame, because it’s a nice little park, with a small memorial square and statue, lots of shade trees, and blooming shrubs that, come springtime, look like someone draped a bright purple carpet of flowers on the bushes.

The Greenways Take Shape

IMG_7456It’s been a while since I’ve been down to the Scioto Riverfront in downtown Columbus.  Kish and I stopped by today to take a peek at the status of the Scioto Greenways project, which is an effort to narrow the river and return it to a more natural channel — and, in the process, recover some much needed green space and downtown parkland from the former, wider, river bed.

I think it looks pretty good, although you can’t actually enter the new areas right now.  I’m assuming the chain fencing will be removed and access will be allowed when the grand opening occurs on Tuesday.  The river looks better with the green borders.  The question is, will downtown workers use the new areas?  I’m guessing they will.  People tend to like water, and in land-bound Columbus the Scioto River is just about the only option.