Through collaborative efforts by Near Southside, Inc. and Leadership Fort Worth, the first micro-park, or moveable, tiny park, breathed life into a once blah space, May 18. It is significantly placed in the heart of Fort Worth’s hippest and historic neighborhood on the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Henderson Street.
Zip ties create a concatenation of color on several light poles fueled by tiny sun panels the size of smart phones. Miniature “Christmas” lights wrap around the tops of the poles to offer light rather than the usual bulb. Milk crates and moveable park benches initiate areas for adults to sit and children to climb. Seven newly planted lacebark elm trees were donated by Susan Folkert of GreenStock Nurseries in Oklahoma, and the Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center donated six holly trees due to their expansion. These offer shade and nature in an otherwise tangled concrete wasteland.
The 4,500-square-foot area is designed with the focal point ArtSouth in mind, which is a transferable 20-foot-long shipping container that launched fall 2015 and acts as an art gallery. This will offer a backdrop to the park, and art installations will be changed out every month to feature various local artists.
These petite parks have started popping up around the country in small, underutilized (or simply unused) urban areas that are glaring tears in a civil-engineered canvas. They offer shade, a place to congregate and share ideas, play (adults and children alike) and an aesthetic that fills the not-so-pleasant “missing teeth” of a redeveloping area. In Fort Worth, director of planning Mike Brennan and director of events and communications Megan Henderson of Fort Worth South, Inc. plan to repair the canvas with ideas like this one.
And while most parks are permanent, this one is sitting on a plot of land with plans to be developed within a year by Mike Dolabi, who offered his land while he finalizes his plans.
“I think what is really interesting about [the micro-park] is that it is intended to be picked up and moved later on. Near Southside has already started looking for the next site. That is not typical,” Eric Garrison, principal at TBG landscape architects, said.
That nearly everything in the park was or will be repurposed, including the park itself, isn’t typical but reflects the personality of the neighborhood. Schaefer Advertising Co. gutted the building next door to the park, repurposing the entire 100-plus-year-old, three-story co-op and reusing nearly everything. Even old wiring and electrical pieces were put in the clear glass base of a custom-made lamp, making something unusable into something decorative.
“When we went into the design, we thought about the eclectic nature of the neighborhood around it. The recyclable materials fit the tone of the area,” Claire Brunner, project manager with Leadership Fort Worth, said.
Fort Worth community leaders opened its first micro-park to make a statement that this can and should be done here. There is a lot of talk about what impact this park may have. While the city of Fort Worth doesn’t have micro-parks yet, it has what it calls urban and pocket parks. These are less than 5 acres, Sandra Youngblood with Parks and Recreation said. Burnett Park downtown, Bluebonnet Circle Park and Daggett Park on College Avenue are just a few examples of these.
The details in the creative construction of this micro-park tell the story of the quirky, eclectic neighborhood it was constructed in, and the artists, benefactors, regulars, visitors and residents that care so much for the area.
“The art and pieces say a lot that tie the park back to the community,” Garrison said.
Car hoods painted by local artists decorate the space. One is covered by children’s and locals’ handprints. The local Kroger donated the milk crates. Children have restructured and turned them into climbing objects, and Garrison saw someone using the crates as a medium for his or her workout.
“Those are a neat example of how they were originally intended for something else, but people are redefining it,” Garrison said.
Brunner would like to see it foster community spirit and inspire health in general by pulling people outdoors. She also hopes it inspires conversations and sharing ideas.
“It is providing enjoyable outdoor community gathering spaces. We spend too much time indoors and with all of the development going on,” Brunner said.
Garrison and his colleague at TBG, Jonathan Dunbar, aren’t that concerned about the park wasting away either. So many members of the community passionately came together to put it all together in a matter of months. He can’t imagine them disrespecting the park.
“It is amazing how many people out of the goodness of their heart made this happen. During an ‘Open Streets’ event people were stopping and putting zip ties on the poles. Children put their handprints on the hoods. I was out there this past weekend, and someone was watering the trees,” Dunbar said.
The water for the new trees comes from a spigot offered by Schaefer Advertising next door. The following Saturday morning, a local artist set up a small table with his goblets and pottery. People bring food over and snack while their children take a break and bang on some of the hanging soup cans to create their own music.
“Maybe someone will bring a game of horseshoes. I think it will evolve dramatically,” Dunbar said. “City parks have rules, but this park does not. The interaction with this park will be different from other city parks. People will see it as their own and take care of it.”
“There are a lot of missing teeth still on Magnolia. The objective for the park here and regionally is how can you take a similar approach and take advantage of the spaces that aren’t used and complete the picture that is fun and creative,” Garrison said.
As the park evolves within itself and the neighborhood, one can only hope it evolves our community.