turtle replaced the White Oak car installed about 6 years ago. Part of
the appeal of natural playgrounds is that they're never a fixed constant;
they're always evolving. This sturdy concrete turtle should
complement our quirky little park for quite some time though. It weighs in at
1,800 pounds and is about 5 feet long by 4 feet wide by about 3 feet tall. Luckily we don't have to feed it.
"The Reader" a metal sculpture created by local artist Steve Cote now graces Mary Hayes Barber Holmes Park. The piece was the people's choice winner of the Sculpture in the Green event last Spring. Mary Holmes Park has always been envisioned as a repository for artwork throughout the grounds and this piece has proven to be a popular addition.
A great article from Better Cities & Towns follows. It asks the important question that I've had
for years, namely, "where is my jet-pack?"
Parks, an intelligent
approach to economic development, and conscious urban planning are all aimed at
improving quality of life through enhancements of the physical environment - hence the plethora of planning and economic develop posts of late.
A walkable community is the most common term to describe the
alternative to drive-only suburbia. Walkability is easy to explain but
uninspiring. Walking is so basic to human life that we often take it for
granted. Perhaps a better term is livability.
Former US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood defined
livability as "a community where you can take kids to school, go to work,
see a doctor, go to the grocery store, have dinner and a movie, and play with
your kids in a park, all without having to get into a car.”
A walkable community is a livable community,
says the plainspoken LaHood, a Republican who worked in the Obama
administration. Walkability is implied—but access, connection, diversity of
experience, and closeness are also qualities of a livable place, LaHood
The concept is a profound one for a transportation
secretary: Life changes depending on whether a community is built around
walking or driving.
A livable community, and how it differs from a place
designed around driving, means the following:
Freedom of mobility. A walkable community is drivable as
well. But the reverse is not true. Once a place is built around driving,
walking is impractical for most purposes. The need to get around by car for every errand
is not really freedom. The car is your master. How hard do you have to work to
pay the $9,000 average cost to own a car? When it breaks down, you are stuck.
The livable city is the freedom to own a car—but drive it
less. If you drive 5,000 miles a year, instead of 15,000 or 20,000, you can
keep it three times longer and save about $5,000 a year. So, a livable
community means the freedom to save money. You can give up the hassles of car
ownership entirely and save even more.
A livable city offers transit, bicycling, car-share,
bike-share, and other transportation options. A livable community is choice.
A public realm. Streets belong to the people in
a livable community. Well-designed public spaces attract people as if by magic.
Enrique Penalosa, the dynamic former mayor of Bogota, Columbia, notes, “Great
public space is a kind of magical good. It never ceases to yield happiness. It
is almost happiness itself.”
Streets for cars are places to move through quickly: They
offer little to enjoy or appeal to the senses once you step out of the vehicle.
In a drive-only community, the best public square may be a Walmart parking lot.
The enjoyment of public art and architecture. Towns
and cities themselves are art. You can’t see it at 50 mph or very clearly at 30
mph—you must walk, bike, or drive slowly. The art of community building brings
us together. When a town is built at a drivable scale, the art of creating a
community is squandered and eventually forgotten.
Diversity and proximity. The livable community
mixes the elements of a community together in a rich gumbo of culture. The
livable city is not an endless, monotonous monoculture of single-family
detached houses, connected to arterial roads. It is not boring. The livable
city invites you to walk to the café, to parks, to the museums and restaurants.
The livable city is the five or 10-minute stumble from the tavern where you’ve had a few drinks
(and maybe a few too many) with close friends. DUI is not a fear in the livable
Livable communities are improved by diversity and proximity.
A festive place. A community with public spaces
designed for events offers more opportunity to celebrate with your neighbors.
These public spaces are active 365 days a year—not just during special
occasions—because they are surrounded by active buildings and neighborhoods.
A healthy place. The livable town puts exercise into
you daily life, making you and your family healthier without a membership to a
gym. The livable city allows children to walk to school, getting the arms and
legs moving at the beginning and end of the school day. A livable town has
parks and playgrounds that people of all ages can walk to. In a livable
community the children play—at least sometimes—without the parents setting up a
“play date.” A livable community has access to locally grown fresh fruits and
vegetables—usually offered at an outdoor farmer’s market.
A place for chance encounters. A livable community is
one where you see the doctor, school teacher, or plumber at the park, grocery
store, or a community event. They know who you are and greet you. People get to
know one another in many ways. This quality may seem less important in the era
of Facebook and Twitter, but it is more important than many of us realize.
Nothing will ever replace real-world encounters.
Value. The art of mixing uses in proximity
creates value, promotes commerce, and meets a growing market demand.
Livable communities are closer, physically, to the
neighborhoods where your grandparents were raised than to the isolated
techno-utopia of the Jetsons (where is my jet-pack, by the way?).
Livable communities look more like what a child would create if you asked them
to build a village, neighborhood, or main street from blocks. Livable
communities are hard-wired into the human race.
Livable communities are real communities.
In this modern era, generations after policymakers abandoned
walking as transportation, the idea of livable communities may be less real to
many people than Santa Claus. Yet as long as love, courage, and excellence are
real, so are livable communities.