Later this month, the City of Savannah embarks on an ambitious — and "Savannah-centric" — bid into the national trend of Play Streets.
A Play Street basically happens whenever a street is closed to vehicle traffic to encourage activity by residents.
This April 28, eight blocks of Lincoln Street, from Henry to Gaston, will be given over to pedestrians, bicyclists, music, art, food and family fun.
"It's a deliberately long, linear route designed to have families come from one side to the other. We're encouraging people to ride bikes there and through," says Garrison Marr, City of Savannah Sustainable Development Coordinator.
"The concept is great for families to be able to travel by bike and by foot, to get more comfortable with the streets shut down, and maybe pursue traveling in that way on a more regular basis afterward," he says.
"The Savannah Bicycle Campaign will be there helping people fix up bikes ready to roll. There will be bike safety games for kids, a bike valet. We've made the whole thing for people to enter and exit through a long and active route."
Not only that, but there might be a world record set that day.
"We're trying to set the world record for the most people simultaneously hopscotching," says Marr.
"It's a good size footprint of the whole event. It'll take up more than two city blocks. We'll have 400 people hopscotching all at once. We need 45 volunteers just to coordinate it."
The first local Play Street was the 2010 "Kid's Ciclovia" on Washington Avenue, highlighting the then-brand new bike path there.
"We had a chance in that instance to create a family-friendly environment to get people out on the roads, feeling comfortable riding bikes, and to have access to other resources in a festival atmosphere in their own neighborhood," Marr says.
"This new opportunity is a big expansion of that. Whereas the Washington Avenue event was essentially a block around Tiedeman Park, this one will be 6/10s of a mile," he says.
"Talk about scaling up! We're able to do some unique and compelling things with the extra space."
Not only is this event physically bigger, it's far more ambitious in scope. The City has invited a "wide and eclectic mix of community nonprofits" in this event made possible by a particular federal grant, says Marr.
"We all got together and asked, what's a Savannah way to approach this series? How can we elevate all these community nonprofits and their priorities and projects? So the focus is on local art, local food, and getting kids and families outdoors and physically active."
Marr says this approach is unique compared to other cities using the same grant money from the feds.
"It's pretty Savannah-centric. It separates us quite a bit from the other nine cities participating," he says.
The Savannah event, as you might imagine, focuses on art and culture as well as on physical activity, the main focus of other cities' events.
"Here we'll have farmers market vendors, mobile exhibits, live music through AWOL, a film project, and dance performances," Marr says.
The City of Savannah is the grant recipient, but is passing through all the money to the individual nonprofits participarting.
"We see our job as creating the space," says Marr. "All programming is by and large provided by community nonprofits to showcase what's important to them. They're getting grant funding but they're also able to connect with people who are attending who can access services later. It's a great way to make connections.
"They're expert at creating that kind of content. We just wanted to let the experts do it."
Play Streets Savannah 2013
When: Sun. April 28, 2-5 p.m.
Where: Lincoln Street, between Henry and Gaston Streets
Cost: Free and open to the public
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