Temporary pop-up park transforms unused space in Camden Public Landing

Before the white stuff, there was an emphasis on the green stuff

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 9:30pm

CAMDEN—The Camden Public Landing parking lot is buried under a big old slushy pile now, but just two days ago, on a 60-degree-day Oct. 31, part of it was transformed into a temporary green space with café tables, hay bale seating areas, a pop up art installation and a lot of donated plants. The idea came from the Community Institute's "Streets, Places and People” 1 ½-day workshop and the whole point was to work with the town's Downtown Master Plan to repurpose the unused space in the middle of the pavement where the majority of cars park.

The obvious question was: why bother changing a parking lot if there are other natural green spaces already around?

“We have several parking lots in this town that I’m personally not inspired to do anything with,” said workshop participant Kristen Lindquist. “But, this one is on our greatest asset, the waterfront. And it has one of the most incredible views of Mount Battie and the harbor. Just doing a couple of tiny things to capitalize on that makes sense.”

Essentially the pop-up park was a living classroom of ideas.

Jane Lafleur, executive director of Friends of Midcoast Maine, added: “Everything here is borrowed. We have plants from Plants Unlimited, tables and chairs from Seabright andhay bales from Aldermere Farm. We’ve used temporary chalk to outline sidewalks. This is to show what you could do to share unused space between people and automobile use. There are some plans the town has been working on to look at alternative use of parts of this parking lot without losing parking spaces. The deeper idea is that communities can start thinking about parts of their town that can turn into productive, attractive spaces to come sit and enjoy. It’s all about building a place for people to hang out and enjoy.”

Mike Tomko, the artist who provided the mermaid popup art installation, is a contractor and design drafter. After participating in the workshop, Tomko got inspired to add something to the pocket park and drove back to Boothbay. Specifically, he wanted to beautify the stacked floats by the side of the harbor, so he and his wife, Martha Cowdery, also a design drafter, came up with the whimsical concept of mermaids.

“I got home at 10 p.m.,” he said. “We bought the ¼-inch plywood at Home Depot. Then we sketched out the rotating seagulls and mermaids, cut them out, painted them and were done at 1 a.m.”

He then came back the next day and installed them on the floats.

“It was really interesting to participate in the workshop with people who aren’t from Camden,” said Lindquist. “We’ve been looking at this particular parking lot all of our lives and now see it with different potential. Some of the things we covered in the class were different examples around the country of little pocket parks, real cheap easy ways for communities to transform physical places into more attractive spaces.”

By 5 p.m., the entire green space was dismantled and the participants each walked away with practical ideas to bring back to their own communities.

The Downtown Master Plan's Harbor Planning Project recommends eventually creating a green space in the island, or unused space, in the middle of the pavement where the majority of cars park.

Kay Stephens can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com