The Parking Lot Diaries: Turning Around the Big Yellow Taxi

That Joni Mitchell’s oft quoted line about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot still resonates more than 45 years after it was first written, sings volumes about the choices many North American cities have made over the latter half of the twentieth century regarding green space. Despite the pleas to keep what they “got” in terms of green space, most cities succumbed to the siren song of freeways, parkways, and parking lots instead.

Lexington, a city of over 300,000 in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky was no different.

Local legend has it that the secret to Lexington’s fast horses and fantastic bourbon lies within the majestic waters of Town Branch Creek, the river that runs through the heart of the town — or rather used to run thorough the heart until it was covered by several parking lots, a casualty of 20th century catering to the automobile.

For decades the waterway and surrounding green space became a paradise lost – until The Parking Lot Diaries stepped in and changed everything.

A local initiative that focuses on turning one of the existing parking lots into a park, The Parking Lot Diaries is part of a larger plan to turn 2.5 miles of the historic Town Branch Creek into a wider trail and park system. Complete with greenery it will aim to open vital new pedestrian and cycling links through the heart of downtown Lexington.

In late October 8 80 Cites in partnership with the Lexington Downtown Development authority hosted a series of pop-up community engagement events to collect as many ideas as possible from residents on what the new park should look like and how it should be animated. Over five locations and forty-eight hours later we connected with more than 600 people collecting close to a 1000 different ideas! From eager students at the University of Kentucky and engaged elders at a local seniors’ centre, to commuters at a local transit hub and energetic children at a local library, each engagement hub location was selected to ensure we received as diverse and as wide a range of feedback as possible. Invited to chat for a minute over coffee and doughnuts led to all sorts of larger conversations about what makes Lexington a great place to live and what could make it even better!

With all this fantastic feedback 8 80 Cities will be returning to Lexington in 2017 to turn these ideas into action. For three weeks next spring the harsh and soullessness asphalt of the parking lot will be transformed into a vibrant pilot park with green space aplenty.

Just because paradise was paved over doesn’t mean it can’t be brought back!

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