A number of West Side residents have come up with a creative way to help transform a relatively underutilized park into a more vibrant family-friendly play space. By curating a series of events and activities, neighbors are spending more and more time in the park (378 Massachusetts Avenue), practicing yoga, playing games, participating in trash cleanups, running pop-up markets, picnicking, etc.
“Blanket the Park” brings cool, law-abiding adults into the mix at Buffalo’s West Side Park.
The purpose behind the intensive event schedule is to reintroduce neighbors to a park that they rarely utilize. Since there has been a dearth of activity, the park has become a place that tends to attract litter. There is also a feeling of insecurity if the park appears desolate. These are social exercises that literally retrain people to rethink what the park means to them, and what the full potential of the park can be.
“One person, one blanket, one event at a time makes a huge difference,” says founder and nearby resident, Stephanie Adams. “From Monday Night Yoga to Friday Craft Night, Blanket the Park hopes to change Massachusetts Avenue Park from a historically ‘no-go’ area to a space that is safe and beautiful for all the residents of Buffalo.”
From organizing group swing dates on the playground, to setting up craft activities, the neighborhood is reconnecting with its park. Parks should be considered valuable assets to a neighborhood, not places where people feel uncomfortable.
“Changing the norms for a space can be difficult, but fortunately, we have an influx of people in the neighborhood who don’t know that for 30 years, it’s been ‘the park you don’t go to.’Couple our new immigrant population with the revitalization work by both the City Parks Department and PUSH Buffalo, and the change has been visible over the last few years. Blanket the Park is another layer of transformation, inviting people to redefine the space on their own terms.”
If you live on the West Side, and you want to become a part of this grassroots movement, then join in on the fun.
“Now that the events are established and we have a solid volunteer base, we’ll be focusing on broadening our recruitment and message,” says Adams, who is reaching out to publications like Buffalo Rising and Karibu News. “I need people who can help us say “Blanket the Park,” in every language spoken on the West Side.”
These are the types of movements that can literally help to transform neighborhoods. They allow neighbors to connect, they provide flourishing environments for children, they secure property values, and they enhance quality of life for all who live nearby.
A Facebook page has been set up for those who want to check out the Blanket the Park social calendar. Heck, you never know – maybe there’s an activity or event that you want to bring to the picnic table?