Excellence on Main Award

[click image to view larger]

Tree Top Park

Awardee: Whitney Stohr, Barb Petra, and Rachael Glaspie

Award: Community Partnership

Year: 2017

City: Selah

Downtown Selah suffers from a lack of green space, beautification elements, and public gathering areas. The Selah Downtown Association’s Design Committee wanted to create a project that would show the community the value of these elements, and in May 2016, they launched Tree Top Park, a traveling, pop-up parklet.

With financial support from Tree Top, Inc., an apple juice processing plant, and material donations from King’s Row restaurant, Russell Landscaping, and Spinner Wood Products, the SDA created its moveable parklet, complete with artificial grass, picnic tables, chairs, umbrellas, and potted birch trees planted in small apple bins. The park was assembled, enjoyed, dismantled, moved, and reassembled 10 times during the course of the project’s 5 month stretch.

The SDA programmed at least one activity for each location and encouraged the host business and other community organizations to view the parklet as a public space and use it as they would any other park. They were encouraged to host events at the parklet or use it as an outdoor dining area.

Initially, the SDA simply wanted to show the community different ways that beautification could be integrated into the streetscape. However, they soon realized that they would first have to take a step back and prove to the community that there was even value in doing so. With community education and involvement as the new primary goal of the parklet, the SDA soon found that they were in fact changing public opinion about the value of green space.

As a newer Main Street Community, Tree Top Park was something of a coming out party for the SDA. It allowed them to galvanize a strong volunteer base, test their public communication skills, and develop important community partnerships with sponsors, the city, and the local business community.

After the parklet left their storefront, business owners often invested in their own outdoor furniture and plants, and several have plans to develop larger, permanent green spaces. Spurred by the positive feedback and new partnerships, the SDA will install three semi-permanent parklets in 2017.

Tree Top Park was a seemingly modest installation that yielded significant results, in large part because the SDA embraced the spirit of community engagement and education.