There’s a sense of community in Portland that is hard to define and harder to match. In our 3 years as an agency in Portland (and 10+ years before that working here), we’ve had the fortune of being a part of a lot of great things, from restaurant openings to public rallies to one of the most important exhibits to show at the Portland Museum of Art. And we’ve been on the receiving end of so much support and camaraderie that the thought of working anywhere else seems impossible. When we saw that some friends were organizing an event to highlight the importance of the use of public space in our favorite city, we jumped at the chance to be a part of it.
Technically, the event has been happening since 2005, when a San Francisco design studio took over a parking space for two hours, laid down sod, and turned it into a mini public park—until the meter ran out. They cleaned up the grass, swept away the dirt, and the park was gone. Part publicity stunt, part statement about the allotment of precious urban space for immobile cars, PARK(ing) Day was born. The movement has spread globally, and there are now thousands of participants in dozens of cities claiming a little space back from cars for a day.
We chose a spot across from Crema and Rosemont (gotta stay fueled) with a perfect view of Casco Bay. The park was dubbed the Might & Main Promenade, and it hosted the First Annual ALL-CITY, All-Bets-Off, No-Holds-Barred, In It To Win It Free Form Corn Hole Tournament. We custom painted a set of Corn Hole boards, laid out some astroturf, and flew the Might & Main flag. There were great conversations with passers by about what we were doing and why, and we had almost 20 players vying for the title of Champion.
We had a lot of fun, but we were also mindful of the larger issue at hand. We all have cars at Might & Main, but we like to get to work without them whenever we can. By foot, by bike, by bus or by scooter, keeping another car out of the downtown area just seems like a smart move. Portland is a city that’s friendly to car-free transportation. Our city’s small footprint means that you can walk from East Side to West Side in less than an hour, and any form of wheeled transit speeds that up greatly. However, Portland needs more support for alternative transportation. I rode up to a coffee shop on Congress Street yesterday to find every meter on the block hosting at least one bike and sometimes two. I had to chain up to a trash can, and felt a little in the way. More bike considerations, bike lanes, and an improved Metro service could do wonders for a city that really shouldn’t require a car to get around. Just making the Metro signs and schedules readable would be a huge step in increasing ridership from the current average of less than ten per bus at any given time. Keeping the buses on time and being able to track them on a mobile app would bring Portland up to the level of many other small cities.
We may not have made any concrete strides towards better use of Portland space last Friday, but we were one of 6 PARK(ing) spaces, and there was plenty of media coverage. We owe it to our beautiful little city to not put parking structures, parking lots, and parking spaces before the PARKs that helped to earn us the name Forest City.
Oh, and though both Graeme and Kevin brought the intensity, the title of Champion goes to our own Morgan DiPietro, who dominated the boards all day. Just wait till next year...