Downtown Gets a Pocket-Sized Park

Getting in touch with nature Downtown used to mean taking a perfectly timed selfie with the praying mantis outside of Container Park as it scorched the ozone—and some of your neck hairs. But oh, how times have changed. Downtown Project and The Nature Conservancy recently unveiled Las Vegas’ first semi-permanent parklet, their direct address to the park shortages in the urban core.

“We think this will provide a little place of respite, a place to relax and soak up some of the tranquil aspects of the neighborhood,” says John Curran of Resort Gaming Group, one of Downtown Project’s real estate partners.

Downtown has just two acres of parkland per 10,000 residents. This pales in comparison to the rest of the city, which has 30 acres per 10,000 residents.

Located at Sixth Street and Carson Avenue, the parklet tops out at 160-square feet, just small enough to take up a single parking space. An interchangeable pane of glass provides proper roofing and much obliged shade for half of it. Desert plants line the outcroppings to give you that outdoorsy feel. In the middle of the parklet is a table, embossed with Nevada’s geography. The map pinpoints recreational areas such as Red Rock Canyon and Clark County Wetlands Park, which gives loungers an idea of how far away they are. Seats are engraved with native wildlife pictures and fun facts, a design element meant to educate those who visit.

17023287088_ecdb93b379_k“It’s just a really enriching thing for people to have that type of awareness and realize how much of an incredible place that they’re living in,” says John Zablocki, Mojave desert program director of The Nature Conservancy, who contributed the animal facts.

Councilman Bob Coffin made an appearance at the ribbon cutting April 21, stating this neighborhood addition would begin the breakup of Downtown as an “asphalt jungle.”

Downtown has just two acres of parkland per 10,000 residents, according to RGG’s John Curran. This pales in comparison to the rest of the city, which has 30 acres per 10,000 residents.

Curran’s one of many involved with the parklet’s creation. Ken McCown, landscape architecture chair for Iowa State University, oversaw the design, which had over 1,000 hours dedicated to it. ISU and UNLV students helped build the parklet off sight and volunteers installed it. Curran says they also made a point to stay green, building the parklet from recycled materials.

Take a trip to San Francisco or Seattle and you’re bound to find a parklet. But it’s important to note these are biking cities. With Councilman Coffin anticipating this to be the first of many parklets, this raises a question: is a concept that hogs parking spaces a proper fit in such a car reliant city?

“Well we’re trying to change that,” Curran says. “We wanna make Downtown a more walkable, a more bikable environment.”

Surely Downtown’s capable of the evolution, but the entire city’s got to work on actually liking bikers first.

Curran insists the parklet won’t affect much. In fact, he thinks it’s a perfect place to mingle while you’re waiting on a table at Carson Kitchen or Bocho.

At this point it’s a social experiment. Time and experiences will tell if we’re really all that satisfied with it. See for yourselves, and report back once you’ve learned everything you can about the nature we’re so desperately needing.

Vegas Seven