Why Close a Street to Play as a Community?
Closing a street for community playing can be done anywhere.
Posted Dec 28, 2015
*Author is Pat Rumbaugh, the Play Lady
Did you play in the streets when you were a kid? I sure did. We used to play two-hand touch football and use the parked cars on one side as our references for a first down and touch down. We had a basketball hoop next to the street where I would go out and shoot hoops and play pick-up basketball for hours with kids and sometimes adults.
Why should you close a street to play? Because it is super fun to play in the street! People have been playing in the streets all over the world for years. On New Years Eve at Times Square in New York City tons of people stay up to bring in the New Year and the wonderful thing is this happens all over the world.
Maybe sometime in your life you lived in a community that closed your street for neighborhood events or a parade. Where I live in Takoma Park, Maryland there has been a July 4 parade for 126 years. Actually in 2014 I was asked to be the Grand Marshall. This humbled me to the core. I couldn’t believe the July 4 Parade Committee unanimously chose me to be the Grand Marshall. The coolest thing was Realtors Meg and Dan who are so supportive of our play efforts in Takoma Park bought us 500 red and blue balls to pass out during the parade that said, “Go Play!” About 100 people of all ages joined me. I got to ride in a 1904 car and family, friends and a dog or two walked with me; carrying signs that encouraged people to play. They also handed out the balls and a flier giving people ideas of how they could promote play.
This July 4 Parade goes right past my house, so you may recall if you read my first post that we have held seven Picnic, Play and Parade Watch events. We play in the street some before and after the parade until they reopen the street.
Word started spreading that if neighbors closed their street I would organize people to help me bring the Takoma Plays Collection---a set of balls, bocce, corn hole, dress-up clothes, giant chess, giant connect four, hula-hoops, jump ropes, mini tennis, and more. Children and adults ride their bikes, tricycles, scooters, and wagons up and down the street. See the story by June Soh on Voice of America TV when we closed Spruce Avenue in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Several streets in Takoma Park are closed once a year, so the neighbors can play together. We have closed more then a dozen streets in the last seven years for people of all ages to play in the street. In March 2013 we decided to close Willow Avenue in Takoma Park on a Sunday morning from 10am-till noon. Because people would be going to the Farmers Market around the corner, having play opportunities in the street around the corner may get some of them to join the play. Washington Post reporter, Vicki Hallett, came and interviewed players and wrote it up.
Tips for closing a street
- Size does not matter. We have closed streets with only a couple of houses on them and we have closed streets that have up to thirty houses. To us the size doesn’t matter--- if people want to close their street for play we want to help them.
- In Takoma Park, Maryland we have a policy to close your street, you must get signatures from 80% of the homes on the street saying they agree to close the street for the two-hour period. This will mean no cars will be permitted to drive through the street during that time.
- Also someone from the street must go pick up the wooden horses, signals of a closed street, and return them to Public Works after you are finished.
- Closing a street would make a great project for a teen, preteen with some help, a scout troop and/or a team. They could do the necessary steps to get the street closed, advertise and play with the folks during the time the street is closed.
- There could be a theme or not, but it is a good idea to suggest this to whoever is helping you close a street. A couple of streets we closed, so that children could have their birthday party playing in the street.
- Think of the time of year and what would be appropriate to play.On a warm July 4th weekend we closed a street to play and it was hot enough to have a couple of baby pools with water to play in for kids and adults.
- During the time we close a street many people come to play that have never experienced this fun playful scene before, so many are excited to have the opportunity to play in the street. I always jump at the opportunity by asking; where do you live? Would you like your street closed for play? Are you having fun playing in the street?
Feel free to contact me if I can help you play in the street in your community. It doesn’t matter if you live in an urban area, rural area, or suburbia you can find a way to play safely in your street. I am willing to bet you will have a blast playing; you may meet some neighbors, make new friends and feel like a child again. Now go play!
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