As we near the end of May, breezy and calm with a dash of rain, the beginning of the month seems an era ago, with its frozen ground, snow drifts, and biting wind. A Friday afternoon walk shows the neighborhood beginning to wake after a long winter: the spring thaw characterized by trees in flower and play on asphalt.
After the games, many got t-shirts and some won one of six blue bins. As recycling is now mandatory in Salem, and The Point is its most dense neighborhood, this was a good beginning towards a shift away from the throwing away of all things to a more thoughtful approach to waste management. In fact, as the kids learned, one person’s trash is another’s raw material for entirely new creations!
The front of the Community Suggestion Wall is almost complete and asks residents to imagine what this lot could be. The final, essential touch, will be the chalk that will be placed on site as soon as this fall rain passes. The head of the wall will serve as a Community Bulletin board with the bold artwork of the neighborhood helpers.
For the Salem Arts Festival, we want to collect at least 10 of these stories, each with an image showing where it happened in the neighborhood. We will make an installation that will show off all these stories on postcards on a large map drawn on the ground in the Community Arts Room of the Festival. If you have a story, or think you may have a story, use the sheet below, fill out your story, circle the location on the map and send it to us: SalemPublicSpaceProject[at]gmail.com
This post is part of The Beauty of the Point series.
Guest post by Deborah Buelow who reflects on resident participation in Mary Jane Lee Park after last Saturday’s event.
The afternoon was quite a success in all aspects: the weather, the turnout, and conversations on how to improve neighborhood spaces. With the first day of bright and warm sunshine beckoning people outdoors and an Easter egg hunt promising the collection of goodies, Mary Jane Lee Park was awash in good feelings. It was an excellent time to ask people to discuss how they view their park, and how they might see it changed. I followed Claudia and the Salem Public Space Project (SPSP) to get a sense of place: who uses the park, what do they like about the park, what could be improved? What about that plot of land next to the park – the one where the dilapidated one story building was located – how would you use that plot now that it’s empty? And in fact that was the idea behind being there yesterday afternoon: to ask people who use this public space to participate in a survey and begin to discuss some of these questions.
After listening for a bit I began speaking to people in the context of the survey. There were some overwhelmingly parallel themes running through each person’s voice. Onerecurring narrative had to do with safety in the park, and how it is used at night. It seems transparency is necessary. Trees have been cut down to mitigate this problem, but more lighting and more openness would help. Another topic related to garbage, litter, overall cleanliness. The ground is dirty, there is no place for trash; the city wouldn’t pick it up if there were trash containers anyway, they said. Could a rubber playground surface help as opposed to the sand? Options are plentiful, but who would implement them? Who would pay for them?
These questions, and answers to these questions, lingered, but what really interested me were the overtones that rang throughout these conversations. The people I spoke with initially paused after I asked some of these questions: What else might you do with this park? What would you do with that unutilized plot of land over there? The initial answer was almost always: “I don’t know, I’ve never thought about it.” But somehow that makes sense: if people have no reason to consider an alternate, why would they?
This survey works in two ways, and that’s what I find most exciting about it. It will go on to influence a number of ideas that are prompted by the suggestions of the community members, and already I know Claudia and the SPSP have thoughts on how to begin to integrate some of these ideas. But most significantly I see this survey as a way to allow the community members to consider the possibility for change, and to begin to expand their thinking to allow for future improvements. And that’s an opportunity for real and beneficial change.