Urban (Park)ing

In September 18, leave the meter money at home and take a stroll through the park(ing) spaces in downtown Wilmington to support the city’s fifth annual Park(ing) Day.

Wilmington Downtown Inc., or WDI, more than doubled the number of parking spaces for this year’s occasion.

WDI Dream Committee Chairman Steve Whitney describes the global event as one that “creates an awareness of the importance of parks in the downtown environment”.

WDI funds the meter costs, while local garden and nursery organizations provide plants and materials to transform the urban spaces into organic-looking parks for the public.   

Staff members from these organizations actively participate in the all-day event by conversing with the public and demonstrating to the community how gardens can be developed.

As Park(ing) Day organizers attempt to raise awareness about the need for additional urban parks in the downtown area, several new public spaces and parks around the city are showing off their green side as well.

According to SHERYL KINGERY MAY, the Cape Fear Museum director, the museum is opening its new community park referred to as the Outdoor Learning Environment on September 25.

The park is not enclosed and is available as both a learning environment and recreational region for the public.

“Integrated in the park are native and adaptive plants” as well as “exhibits looking at science and history and how people have interacted with their environment over the history of the Cape Fear region” Mays say.  

Still in the early stages of development planning, the future North Waterfront Park is also available for special “pop-up events,” before the site is fully developed, city officials say. The park provided the grounds for the annual Port City

RibFest August 14-16, an event that previously was stationed at Battleship Park in recent years.

The new greenspace also is scheduled to host the Lighthouse Beer & Wine Festival on October 24.

These events take place as officials continue creating an overall master plan for what to include in the 6.6-acre property.

While there are no immediate plans in place for the North Waterfront Park, the site is “not going to include athletic facilities” but will be a more passive park “for public gatherings such as concerts,” says city of Wilmington spokeswoman MALISSA TALBERT.

And in congruence with the increased common space for more performance-related events, the Bailey Theater Park is home to local productions. This summer, the Cape Fear Independent Film Network conducted its first summer film series at the park, holding free outdoor screenings of movies with production ties to Wilmington. Beginning in September, a weekly Fall Jazz Jam series will take place on Monday nights in the space off Front Street. The city of Wilmington leases the Bailey Theater Park, then lends the space to local groups.

With the rise of public spaces as recreational hotspots downtown, this year’s Park(ing) Day is expected to engender a desire for additional city park space among locals. According to Whitney, Park(ing) Day is Wilmington’s “forum for the importance of parks in the downtown area”.