The average citizen knows the merits of public parks. They’re places to play, explore and connect with nature and our neighbors.

Our region is fortunate to have many well maintained spaces that offer a range of activities and it’s encouraging to see municipalities and individuals step up to expand or improve those systems. The village of Capac is the latest to announce such plans. The council recently gave their blessing to turn a vacant downtown lot into a pocket park.

According to the American Planning Association, the concept of pocket parks was developed in Europe following World War II where capital, labor and supplies were hard to come by. Leaders wanted to restore peace-time amenities for their residents as quickly as possible. Once damaged buildings were demolished, the resulting empty lots proved to be the ideal setting for creating new green space.

These days the pocket park concept is most often embraced by urban communities. In those settings, government leaders are faced with a limited amount of space so vacant lots are often the only option for expanding park offerings. In more rural settings like ours, pocket parks have become a means to diversify and beautify downtowns. They provide a pause or break to the human eye from what’s typically a long line of stately buildings and, in many instances, provide an ideal gathering place for special events.

In this pandemic era, we’ve come to better appreciate outdoor spaces where we can more safely gather and, in this increasingly virtual economy, anything to draw potential shoppers to our downtowns has significant value.