Public Parks as Public Good

I spent much of the last week in a public park with the OPENAIR Circus, an amazing community group celebrating its 30th year in Somerville.

The big top was up for four days in the corner of the public venue. And as I sat there day in and day out, I noticed something interesting –

People kept asking my permission to use the public park.

To be fair, we had all the proper permits for use of the park and, I suppose, could have kicked people off it we found it necessary.

But it the middle of the day, hours before a performance, why would I possibly feel the need to?

A few times when people asked me, I wanted to respond with – “Of course you can – it’s a public park.”

I hardly felt I had the right to deny anyone access, though I suppose it was kind of them to ask.

What was even more interesting, though, is that not everybody asked.

I almost wish I’d tracked data on who asked for permission and who did not – large groups, for example, tended to ask. Presumably because they felt they were more likely to cause a disturbance. But there was variation among smaller groups of 2-3.

Overall, I just found it interesting to note that some people felt confident in their right to be in a public park while others imagined it was my right to bar them.

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