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Park(ing) Day raises awareness of sustainable transportation

Drake University held its first Park(ing) Day event on Friday Sept. 17, taking part in the international event that seeks to raise awareness about how cities are built in relation to environmental sustainability. 

“I assigned Park(ing) Day to my sustainable transportation class to provide an opportunity for them to start the semester with a hands-on learning experience where they can reflect on transportation issues, not just as issues of getting people from A to B, but also about how we make decisions about how we use our spaces,” said Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Sustainability Dian Nostikasari, PhD.  “Park(ing) day is an example of a tactical urbanism strategy where communities occupy certain spaces and reimagine the ways they can use them.”

According to myparkingday.org, Park(ing) Day started in 2005 and is a “global, public, participatory art project launched by Rebar… people across the world temporarily repurpose street parking spaces and convert them to tiny parks and places for art, play, and activism.” 

Nostikasari and Sustainability Coordinator Sophia Siegal collaborated together and met every few weeks to make this event happen.

“Professor Dian Nostikasari approached me about doing this event with her and it aligned with the sustainability mission of the university,” Siegal said. “It was a perfect opportunity to work with students and faculty on a project. We thought it would be a great way to engage with a variety of students.”

Nostikasar’s sustainable transportation class, the Drake Environmental Action League (DEAL) and Professor Amahia Mallea’s urban environmental history class all contributed in setting up the event along with community organizations.

“This was a good way for students to engage with different community partners like the Bike Collective, DART, and other organizations,” Siegal said.  

Nostikasari said she hopes the event will spark a conversation on sustainability. 

“I am hoping to jumpstart the conversation about how we use our spaces around campus and the resources available for us to use more sustainable transportation modes and other sustainability efforts,” Nostikasari said.

Drake students helped run this event to promote sustainability. 

“Students highlighted our access to public transit with DART, shared mobility with BCycle and Drake’s bike library as well as other ongoing sustainability initiatives at Drake,” Nostikasari said.

Siegal said it was exciting to see students outside of the classroom and interacting with people around them on real life issues. 

“My favorite part of the event was being able to work with students and faculty on organizing the event,” Siegal said. “Some of the best ideas come from students, and being able to provide resources and support to try those ideas out is really exciting and, in my mind, one of the best ways to learn.”

Siegal said she would like to continue seeing students getting involved like this on campus. 

“Students have way more influence than I think they realize that they do in terms of what initiatives are prioritized on-campus,” Siegal said. 

Sophomore Fiona Maloney went to the event on Friday with her friends. 

“I went to the event because I heard about it through DEAL, and it sounded really interesting,” Maloney said. “I was excited when I heard about the food truck, and it sounded like it was going to be a lot of fun. I went with one of my roommates and we both had a great time.” 

Maloney said she thinks the event did have an impact on Drake. 

“I think this event had an effect on Drake by promoting ideas about sustainability in an urban setting and how we can learn more about serious environmental issues,” Maloney said. 

Maloney said going to the Park(ing) Day event was a learning experience that she enjoyed. 

“I learned about more vegan and vegetarian options from the food truck, as well as understanding tactical urbanism and how utilizing space in an urban setting can bring about environmental change,” Maloney said. “I thought the food was so good! I was not expecting it to be so good and it was much different than most vegan/vegetarian options I’ve had, and it was delicious.”

As for next year, it is unclear if this will become an annual event, but Siegal said it was a learning experience. 

“I don’t wish anything went differently because this was the first year of the event and we learned a lot that we wouldn’t have learned otherwise,” said Siegal. 

Siegal has already started thinking of ideas for next year, if it becomes an annual event. 

“For next year, I think it will be easier to facilitate the planning process with students because now we have a sense of what was the easy part of planning the event and what was more challenging,” Siegal said. “It would be great to work with more local organizations in the future and to transform the parking spaces beyond what we were able to do this year.” 

Some students like Maloney said they would go again. 

“If the event was an annual thing I would definitely go again,” Maloney said.

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