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Hammocks, chess and a giant marble track: how a barren Port Moody park has been brought to life

Pop-up Parks started in San Francisco in 2010 and have increasingly become part of the urban environment, including a new one in Port Moody

A barren patch of browning grass next to Port Moody’s Kyle Centre has become a colourful community gathering space.

More importantly, the pop-up park that features brightly painted chairs and tables, a big blue sail to create shade, hammocks, ping pong tables, a giant chess set and outsized blocks that can be assembled to create a marble track could change the way open spaces in the city are used, especially as neighbourhoods densify with condos and townhouses.

Robbie Nall, Port Moody’s supervisor of parks, said the pilot project to activate the compact park helps the city “realize the potential of small spaces.”

Working with a $20,000 budget, a small working group of city staff and members of the parks and recreation commission, including Connie Meisener and Cleone Todgham, studied similar initiatives in neighbouring communities like Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam then brainstormed their own ideas to make the space unique, inviting and fun.

Nall said while the original intent was to spread the activation initiative to other neighbourhood parks around the city, it was decided to concentrate this year’s effort to the park next to Kyle Centre to fully explore its possibilities. He said the Moody Centre neighbourhood is already lacking in substantial park spaces and as more multi-unit developments are built, the pressure to provide outdoor amenities grows.

It’s also a corridor to a nearby ice cream shop and café as well as PoMo Arts that attract a lot of visitors.

In the weeks since the first elements were introduced to the park., families and kids have been gathering. On a recent warm, humid morning, a woman and two kids sat in chairs under the shade sail reading, then migrated to the hammocks for a lie down. Other kids dropped by to build with the big blue blocks.

“As soon as we installed it, people just flocked to it,”Nall said.

All of the elements, except for the steel posts that support the sail, are easily transportable to other parks, and more activities are being added.

Tyler Wahl, Port Moody’s horticultural supervisor who populated the colourful planters filled with flowers that attract pollinators, and moved two ecosculptures that formerly resided at Rocky Point Park, said the project presented a bit of a blank canvas,

“It opens up so many new ideas,” he said. “It’s fun for us.”

Pop-up parks have increasingly become a part of the urban landscape since the first one was built in San Francisco in 2010. They’re an evolution of an international movement called PARK(ing) Day that started in 2006 to reclaim parking spaces for cars to create mini spaces where people can gather.

The little temporary parks are cheap to build and can be tailored to fit the needs of the neighbourhood around it.

Nall said the pop-up park near Kyle Centre is “fluid,” with elements that can be added or taken away. Future ideas for the program could include lawn games like ladder ball or a giant Connect Four set, small vegetable gardens that can be maintained by volunteers but harvested by anyone, water features and even a beach volleyball court.

He said the positive feedback about the current pilot program has been encouraging.

“It’s been fun to see how the community has reacted,” he said. “If you build it, they will come.”