Friday, September 19th, 2008 marked the first annual Park(ing) Day, sponsored and organized by Lonsdale Gallery. Though enjoyed by the neighbourhood, there was some controversy when an angry passer-by called the authorities.

The story of Park(ing) Day was captured by Toronto Star feature writer, Francie Kopun, in today’s Saturday Star. Please see below for our response and for pictures from the event.

To Whom it May Concern:
The Toronto Star Editorial Department

As a representative of Lonsdale Gallery, I wanted to respond to yesterday’s stirring article by Francine Kopun about our participation in the international event “Park(ing) Day”. As the article states, we setup a restful green space in a parking spot, outside of our gallery in Forest Hill Village.

The day was a pleasant one. This project brought people together: members of the community, school children and people from around the city, who’s interests were sparked by this concept of temporarily reclaiming green space. Of the many people who enjoyed and participated in the event, it was one angry and determined individual who ultimately had our event closed down.

This was an unobtrusive event, a temporary and unexpected breath of fresh air in a crowded urban environment. Our space was no larger than a car’s length, and participants were only occupying the one space given. Seemingly- our project was a small, positive message about community involvement and effecting change. Furthermore, we had consultations with both the Parking Enforcement and the Police at various points in the day, both of whom could find no valid reason that we could not occupy a parking spot with grass as opposed to a vehicle. However, we were still shut down by the Transit Authority later that day, after they decided that our event required a permit from the city.

While I agree that permits are important, one question remains: how much effect should one loud voice have over a contented mass? In a democratic society, where people are happy with the change you are bringing to a neighbourhood, should the complaint of one take precedent over the crowd?

From the great response we received from yesterday’s event, we would love to proceed with Park(ing) Day for next year. So I put the question out to the city’s public: should such proactive events be supported?

It is, in my opinion, an item that should be considered by the City of Toronto and its Parking Enforcement, Police and Transit Authority. And perhaps, those who protested yesterday may just need to take a minute to sit on an open patch of grass and reflect- “is it really so bad?”

Stanzie Tooth
Lonsdale Gallery

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