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Bike to the Blossoms Campaign Brings People to Parks

Credit: goDCgo.com

Every year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC.  Originally planted along the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, the cherry trees bloom each spring and can now be found throughout the entire Tidal Basin as well as East Potomac Park.  The two-week festival includes numerous concerts, food tastings, walks and races, parades, the Blossom Kite Festival and myriad other activities, and attracts over a million people to the city each year.

As the Tidal Basin turns into a cloud of pink each spring, East Potomac Park is often overrun with cars whose drivers idle about while admiring the famous cherry trees, making it difficult for those on bike or foot to enjoy the floral display.

That’s why we are excited to learn that Capital Bikeshare, in conjunction with the District of Columbia Department of Transportation, is launching the Bike to the Blossoms campaign for the National Cherry Blossom Festival.  This campaign allows visitors (and locals) to buy a 5-day membership to Capital Bikeshare for a special rate of $15, instead of the regular $5 daily membership rate.  In addition to the special rate, there will be extra bike docks and racks downtown as well as valet bike parking.  And for the directionally challenged, there is even a reader-friendly joint transportation map available outlining the many transportation options surrounding the festival’s events.

We’ve written before about the importance of bringing bike share programs to city parks, encouraging people to visit their local urban oases by using two wheels instead of four.  And with the super helpful transportation map, riders can easily discern how to visit multiple parks and attractions in one bike ride.

The Bike to the Blossoms campaign is a good example of how an already popular bike share program can connect residents and visitors to over a dozen parks and monuments within a five-mile radius, heralding the beginning of spring and the tourist season in Washington, D.C.  This campaign is also a great example of a successful partnership between local and federal government and the private sector to support the tourism industry.  We hope other cities will consider similar campaigns this spring and summer to encourage their residents and out-of-towners to visit their own city parks from a two-wheeled vantage point 🙂

From Woodstock to Prospect Park?

Maybe the nation has changed. Forty years ago, the historic music festival, Woodstock occurred on a country farm field in New York state. But today, the promoter of that festival is looking to bring a 40th anniversary festival not to a rural setting but to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, says New York Daily News:

The summer of Love could be coming to Brooklyn if a promoter from the original Woodstock music festival has his way, the Daily News has learned.

Michael Lang, who helped put on the famous upstate 1969 festival, is hoping to stage a massive Woodstock 40th anniversary concert in Prospect Park’s Long Meadow this summer — if he can find enough sponsors.

“It’s big, it’s convenient. There’s public transportation – and Brooklyn’s cool,” said Lang, 64. “I’d love to do it. But it’s been a very tough year.”

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe confirmed the city is in talks with Lang about the event…….. “It’s a park we have been pointing concert promoters to,” said Benepe. “There’s no space anywhere in Central Park as large as the the Long Meadow in Prospect Park.”

Its somewhat hard to imagine such a festival in a city park in 1969, when the nation was turning its back to many cities, that were under siege from shrinking populations, riots and other problems. We’ve written several times on large music festivals finding their place in city parks, and its nice to see that not just cities are being dubbed “cool” but also the parks that help make them so.

More Music Festivals, More Money

Yet more news on big music festivals in parks. Word has it from the City Insider blog at the San Francisco Chronicle that the city’s Rec. and Park Dept. was thrilled with the Outside Lands music festival in Golden Gate Park this year. The reason: revenue. (Read our past posts here.) These things are bringing in people to parks and they’re also bringing in the money.

Whether you loved it or hated it, if you live in the city you probably have an opinion on August’s three-day, Outside Lands festival, which brought big name acts including Radiohead to Golden Gate Park.

The Recreation and Parks Department was thrilled by the event, which brought $815,000 into their coffers and allowed the agency to showcase its crown jewel. Now, the department is looking to sign on a promoter to produce a similar event, in August, for the next three years — with the possibility of a two-year extension. The idea? To create a new revenue stream for the city’s parks; to “create an iconic event” representative of the city and its main park, that provides economic benefits for the region; and to generally call attention to the parks system, which is in dire need of cash.

We’ll continue to post on this trend.

More on Big Music Festivals

An earlier post of ours talked about the trend in several cities towards city parks hosting large scale music festivals. The Chicago Sun Times ran a story on the results of this year’s Lollapalooza in Chicago’s Grant Park that reportedly drew 225,000 people:

This year’s Lollapalooza rock ‘n’ roll festival was music to the ears of Chicago Park District officials who will accept a $1.6 million check….$400,000 more than last year’s revenues. The money will be used for capital projects and programming costs “throughout the neighborhoods,” said Parks Supt. Timothy Mitchell. Tickets were $80 per day or $205 for a three-day pass. The district gets a guaranteed $1 million or 8.5 percent of revenues, said Brenda Palm, executive director of the Parkways Foundation, a fund-raising partner of the Park District.

That’s a lot of money.

Trend: Large Music Festivals in City Parks

Zilker Park, Austin, Tex.

In recent years, city parks have become home to several music festivals featuring such bands as Radiohead, Cat Power, Kings of Leon, The Roots, Atmosphere and other mostly indie groups. The Bonnaroo and Coachella festivals, set in rural areas, have catered to this genre for quite a few years, but recently more of them have sprouted in the middle of population centers — and parks are a natural, open location for the events, that can draw thousands. Chicago has hosted the indie-music website Pitchfork’s festival in Union Park and the larger Lollapalooza in Grant Park. There’s Outside Lands in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Jersey City hosted the All Points West Festival in Liberty State Park, and concluding just this past Sept. 26 to 28 was the Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival in Austin’s 350-acre Zilker Park.

Austin360 picks up on the events’ financial contribution to city parks, and the benefits of them to bands:

The successes of ACL Fest and Lollapalooza — each earmark part of the proceeds to the respective parks departments overseeing the events — inspired the City of San Francisco in August to allow the Outside Lands Festival, a concert by another promoter, to operate after dark at Golden Gate Park for the first time. C3 Presents pays the Austin Parks Department more than $200,000 a year and has pledged an additional $2.5 million for park improvements over the next seven to 10 years. C3 pays the Chicago’s Parkways Foundation $1 million a year for the use of Grant Park for Lollapalooza.

While cash-strapped city parks departments have warmed to the festival format, so have the artists. Because CD sales have declined in recent years, acts have to hit the road to make money. Festivals can also provide great exposure. At a panel at the Americana Music Association conference in Nashville last week focusing on the flurry of festivals, C3 partner Charlie Walker said “every band playing ACL this year will sell more tickets the next time they come through town.”

Whether the trend lasts is not known, and the events do essentially take away use from the general public for a couple days. But in some cities it presents an opportunity, if wanted, to draw some money and attention to city parks.