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Planners Talk Urban Parks

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Picture a park the size of a parking space. That's just one of several ideas the Boise Department of Parks and Recreation and the Planning and Development Services Department want to introduce to Boise's downtown.

More than 8,000 people live in Boise's downtown, with another 1,000 housing units expected by 2020. Add that to the 30,000 people who work downtown, and city planner Leon Letson feels like there's good momentum to give the downtown area more open spaces.

"This project supports the downtown energy that's been growing over the past few years," Letson told Boise Weekly.

He said besides tiny parklets, ideas include plazas, active alleyways and spaces like Seattle's Pioneer Square.

On June 4, Letson heard from the public on how Boise's park system could be improved and expanded. He and his colleagues set up an open house at Berryhill and Co.'s outdoor plaza and asked citizens for comments and suggestions.

"The beginning of this process is finding out what people think of the spaces we already have," Letson said. "From there, we can start to break down these ideas and move forward with the conversation."

The open house featured a map of downtown parks and open spaces with red, yellow and green push pins. If members of the public were happy with the park, they marked it with a green push pin. If they thought the park needs work, they'd use yellow. If they didn't like it, they would use red. Only a handful of red push pins stuck out in an expanse of green and yellow.

On another board, passersby wrote suggestions on Post-It notes: They called for public restrooms and drinking fountains, dog parks, access for the disabled, more wayfinding signs and less concrete.

Marcus Orton, the director for Safe Routes to School, stopped by the open house to take stock of the city's parks and plans.

"I think [the city] needs a little feedback as to where it should put its effort, money and focus towards building up certain areas," he said. "We can explore what little pockets we can build up in the next five or ten years."

Letson expects a final plan for Boise's downtown parks is a year away.