Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bogotá's Pocket Parks

La Concordia Park in La Candelaria: Green space for lovers and a court for futsal, just meters away from traffic and high-rise buildings. 
In the poor, troubled Santa Fe
neighborhood, trash piles up across
the street from a tiny park. 
Bogotá's big parks, particularly Parque Simon Bolivar, and its new ones, like Parque Tercer Milenio, have received lots of attention. And justifiably so: on sunny weekends those parks fill up with thousands of Bogotanos picnicing, playing soccer and flying kites.

Watching futsal at lunchtime in a
Santa Fe neighborhood park. 
But measured in person-hours per square meter per day, Bogotá's 'pocket parks' may get more use.

Relaxing in La Esmeralda Park
in Teusaquillo. 
These parks, which often cover less than a city block, are squeezed between apartment buildings and factories; they might be be bordered by noisy, polluted avenues and their sunlight blocked by high-rises. A few do not even have grass. They may have only a damaged swing set and pull-up bars, a cracked futsal court and a few benches. Unlike Simon Bolivar and other big parks, where you can breathe fresh air, enjoy country-like quiet and pretend that the city is far away, these tiny parks are both in the city and of it, often with all of its noise, pollution, trash and even crime.

Eating lunch by a reproduction
of a San Agustin monument
 in the Los Martires district. 
But, for shop and office workers who want to sit outside to eat lunch, or factory workers organizing a quick soccer game, these parks provide a break, if not an escape. And Bogotá's new Mayor Gustavo Petro intends to densify the city. That's a positive plan for several reasons: it will mean shorter commutes for the poor, who now live primarily on the city's outskirts, from where they have to spend hours each way in traffic jams on their ways to the city's business districts and wealthy areas where they work. A denser city also means that services such as electricity, water, transit and trash collection are easier and less expensive to provide.
Dogs and couples play in their own
ways on a green patch by La Plaza
del Periodista, in La Candelaria. 

However, a denser city will also make these tiny public spaces all the more valuable.

 In terms of social justice, investment in parks and public spaces is one of the best. That's because parks get used by the rich and poor alike in a healthful way.

Cops check someone out in a Santa Fe park.

Evening on La Plaza del Periodista.

Trash piles up by a tiny park in Santa Fe. 
The Arzobispo River in Teusaquillo is lined by this green corridor
 - and sports the visual warnings on this bridge. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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