Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.
Thursday, January 31, 2013 2:39 PM
Photos courtesy of Jeppe Hein and Shareable.
This article originally appeared at Shareable.
Jeppe Hein, a
Danish artist known for creating experiential art, has put an
interesting twist on park benches by populating the town of De Haan in
Belgium with his eye-catching “modified social benches.” The benches,
which range from the super-comfy-looking to the seemingly unsittable,
are intended to bring people together in unexpected ways and make them
more aware of their surroundings.
While they look enough like traditional park benches to be
recognizable as something you sit on, Hein’s benches have features that
break the park bench mold: tight angles, slopes, missing pieces, loops,
dips, closed circles and more. With their unusual shapes, the benches
are conversation starters and people magnets and they add a fun touch to
Of the benches Hein says, “With their modification, the spaces they
inhabit become active rather than places of rest and solitude; they
foster exchange between the users and the passers-by, thus lending the
work a social quality.”
No choice but to sit ... together.
Is it a gazebo or a bench? You choose.
A bench and slide, great for families and hipsters.
The tête-à-tête taken to a new level.
This bench seats many and orders space in the park.
The nap bench.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 3:27 PM
You’ve heard of farm to table. Coming soon: park to table. This spring, in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle, seven acres of underused land will be transformed into the nation’s largest urban “food forest”—a community park planted with a cornucopia of produce that visitors are encouraged to harvest and eat, for free.
According to Crosscut reporter Robert Mellinger, the Beacon Food Forest will be “an urban oasis of public food” offering a variety of edibles: apples and blueberries, herbs and vegetables, chestnuts and walnuts, persimmons and Asian pears.
The sprawling project, while ambitious, draws strength from volunteer groups like Friends of the Beacon Food Forest and from simply letting nature take its course. Built around the concept of permaculture, it will be a perennial, self-sustaining landscape, much like a woodland ecosystem in the wild. Companion plants included for natural soil-enhancement and pest-control will help lower the amount of maintenance needed.
“The idea of planting perennials as part of a self-sustaining, holistic system is old hat to many accomplished gardeners,” writes Claire Thompson for Grist, and groups like San Francisco’s Guerrilla Grafters have already dazzled us with novel ways to promote urban agriculture. “But,” continues Thompson, “creating a system on public land that combines the concepts of urban farms, orchards, and natural forest, and depending on collaborative community effort to keep it going, represents uncharted territory for the now-flourishing urban-farming movement.”
In addition to contributing to your family picnic, the bounteous Beacon Food Forest will feature traditional amenities like playing fields, community gardens, a kids’ area, and public gathering spaces. Check out the full site plan below:
Sources: Crosscut, Grist
Image by Liz West, licensed under Creative Commons.
Margret Aldrich is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter at @mmaldrich.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 4:13 PM
Cash-strapped state parks are forging partnerships with corporations to close their budget gaps, Governing magazine reports:
In New York, for example, Nestle’s Juicy Juice contributed $350,000 to build playgrounds in seven state parks. In California, Coca-Cola and Stater Bros. Markets have raised about $1.9 million to support reforestation and other state park preservation efforts. And in Georgia, Verizon Wireless contributed $5,000 to cover the cost of park passes for the state’s annual Free Day at the park. Most of these efforts come with recognition—on a playground sign, on a park pass—of the corporation’s contribution.
The trend has already spawned the creation of a new breed of middleman: A California firm called Government Solutions Group has brokered about $7.5 million in such deal since 2004. Chief executive Shari Boyer tells Governing that this is not philanthropy but business: “These are partnerships. The corporation has to get something out of it.”
Some park managers are ostensibly taking care to hook up with companies that are a good fit—but the parameters seem pretty fuzzy:
Asked how Coke products intersect with California’s state park mission, company spokesman Bob Phillips said Coca-Cola’s support of park restoration is part of its “live positively” platform, in which “sustainability is part of everything we do, particularly in this time of cost cutting and downsizing.” Phillips rejected the idea that Coca-Cola products were not in sync with parks’ health and environmental missions, noting instead that state parks “provide opportunities to be physically active.”
If you’re like me, your B.S. meter is off the charts at this contention, but take heart: Overall, these deals are a small piece of the park funding pie. Governing reminds us that in California in the last five years, corporate sponsorships have raised about $6.5 million for parks, while contributions from nonprofit groups amount to $50 million and volunteer hours stack up at a value of $100 million. Even Boyer holds that corporate sponsorships are “not the solution” to larger park funding woes.
Unfortunately, the situation could change as things get worse: One park director says that in the future, “If a corporate citizen wants to put their name on a park, I think that could happen.”
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011 1:48 PM
Public golf courses, whose audience has gone the way of plaid slacks, are being remade by more cities into parks and other more in-demand amenities. Peter Harnik and Ryan Donahue report in Landscape Architecture Magazine that idle fairways are increasingly attractive to urban planners, asking, “What is the future of golf in crowded, park-hungry cities?”:
The game of golf has never been an efficient use of space (hence the development of mini golf) but in the past it could be argued that it was still worthwhile public investment that subsidized a system’s other parks through green fees. No longer. Golf’s popularity is not keeping up with population growth nor the explosion in the number of private golf venues; it’s also losing out to other self-directed activities like running and cycling.
The repurposing of golf courses has been happening for a few years, but the trend shows no signs of waning. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans repurposed some of the land that formerly held four golf courses covering 520 acres. The area now features a boardwalk, a dock, a meadow concert venue, a nature trail, and a very popular walking and jogging trail. National City, California, is considering turning a golf course into a park that has a soccer field, a restored creek, a community farm, and biking and walking paths. And in San Francisco, one landscape architecture instructor at the University of California at Berkeley assigns his students to remake the city’s Lincoln Park Golf Course for other public uses that include a profit-generating feature: “Among the proposals that have emerged,” Landscape Architecture Magazine reports, “are urban farms, bamboo forests, green cemeteries, aquifer recharge facilities, abalone farms, and municipal-scale composting facilities.”
It’s not always about ripping up the greens, though, according to Harnik and Donahue, whose research was supported by the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence. Pressure for other uses has led some golf courses to incorporate features that appeal to the non-golfing public. In Houston, runners advocated for and got a trail around a city course. In a Washington, D.C., suburb, golfers under fire for a driving-range expansion responded by agreeing to make the facility more friendly to the environment and to wildlife.
And some cities are simply letting ordinary people, those common folk who know nothing about bogies or mulligans, use the greens at certain times. This is anything but a new idea in the golf world, LAM reminds us:
The idea has an eminent precedent—St. Andrews in Scotland, hallowed ground for golfers everywhere, has traditionally opened up as a regular park for the townspeople on Sundays.
Source: Landscape Architecture Magazine
(article not available online), Governing
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 4:47 PM
Things just keep getting worse in the golf world. All affairs aside, golf courses are also in trouble. In the December issue of Governing, John Buntin highlights the rising trend of golf courses being converted into public parks and recreation spaces. In New Jersey a 67-acre course is now used for biking, walking, and archery, and courses in Nevada and Indiana have followed suit as well. Buntin cites the economy for having such an impact on the golf industry, and adds that course closures are now higher than openings. “Not that golf is going away,” Buntin says, “But in many American communities, it is being viewed more as a luxury than as a public service.”
Image by Admond, licensed under Creative Commons .
Monday, April 20, 2009 10:04 AM
Ken Salazar is your new secretary of the interior. But “despite the title, he’s actually the de facto secretary of energy,” a petroleum industry source tells Alan Prendergast of Westword in the Denver alternative weekly’s April 2 issue.
“The Department of the Interior controls one-fifth of the land mass of the United States, and that land contains half of the country’s coal and a third of its oil and natural gas,” Prendergast writes.
The piece is the most detailed assessment we’ve seen yet of Salazar’s first two months in office, and while it’s ultimately too early to draw big conclusions—Salazar, true to his reputation, has so far displayed an “earnest, let’s-work-this-out centrism”—it does a good job of pointing out the challenges he faces as he makes grand pronouncements about “taking the moonshot of energy independence” and reaching a “New Energy Frontier.”
“He’s already presented glimpses of the kind of multi-layered agenda not seen since the dawn of the New Deal,” Prendergast writes. However, “true reform at Interior will require coming to terms with deep-rooted political realities that promote abuse of public lands and shortchange the public.”
Image by Mike Disharoon, licensed under Creative Commons.
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