The Washington Post ran a nice story on residents waking up at very early hours and even camping out on top of picnic benches to grab space for their outings on Labor Day in the District of Columbia’s parks. Here’s the lead paragraphs:
When James Caldwell has a yen for a weekend cookout at Anacostia Park, he pulls himself out of bed at 4 a.m. to stake a claim to the best picnic tables: the ones under a roof just south of Pennsylvania Avenue in the District, a short walk from restrooms and a playground. This Labor Day, however, he thought he could afford to sleep in until 6:30, certain that Sunday night’s rain and ensuing gray skies would keep away the competition.
He was wrong. There are apparently enough determined summer-holiday barbecuers in the Washington region that competition for the most prized spots is always fierce — even when the weather feels nothing like summer.
The story also includes a nice quote from another resident hosting a party in the park about passing on the experiences:
“I have never missed a year,” she said, and she was determined that this year would be no different, especially because the cookout would double as a celebration of her granddaughter’s first birthday. “We’re passing on the tradition to our grandkids, and hopefully they will pass it on to their kids.”
Aside from the enjoyment of a Labor Day family gathering, picnic shelters have real economic value to city dwellers. Unless publicly provided, these facilities would carry a greater cost to the public. In fact, studies by economists have estimated the value of shelters to be anywhere from $25 to $150 per use on the private market, depending on the size and quality. So, it makes sense that people are willing to spend time (which is money in a way) to use these places.