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Mailbag: Event showcases need for pedestrian park

April 26, 2012

Saturday was a spectacular day in Laguna. It seems most everyone escaped the inland heat by descending upon Laguna, where they were treated to an Earth Day/Kelpfest collaboration that showcased the best of our environmental sensibilities.

Nancy Caruso's third annual Kelpfest was by far her team's best effort yet. The colorful and interactive exhibits were crowded all day, with great musical accompaniment. Just across the street, Laguna experienced a historic first: the closing of a downtown street for a non-city event.

Transition Laguna Beach produced the event, with easily more than 1,000 people coming through. There was a "Permaculture Square," manned by Transition Laguna members, and showcasing solar ovens, edible gardens, urban composting, water catchment and reuse, as well as free bike tours to see a TLB edible garden install at the Neighborhood Congregational Church.

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In the middle of the fair was an eco expo, with a solar row of companies, and local nonprofits like Laguna Canyon Foundation, ZeroTrash Laguna and Endangered Planet. At the far end was the Possibility Lounge, a chill area with a stage for speakers, music, drumming and hoops. It really brought the community together.

Kudos to the many volunteers who made it happen. Besides educating the public on how to become better environmental stewards, the event had another unintended outcome: It showcased how lovely it would be to convert a downtown street into a pedestrian park — permanently. A gathering place with cobblestones, benches, planters and festive lights.

While there are many advocates for turning Forest Avenue into a pedestrian park, there seems to be insurmountable resistance from a few merchants. So why don't we convert the little strip of Park Avenue that meets Forest and ends at the library? As it stands now it is a "pass through" for those seeking to avoid Forest.

There is only one merchant (Adonis), and the rest is fairly industrial drab, essentially a brick wall backing the White House. There are, however, some awesome trees that would provide shade. We would be sacrificing just eight parking spots, yet gaining so much in the bargain — a downtown people's park, a place for our community to meet and hang out al fresco in the refreshing, briny air. If New York can do it with Broadway, Laguna can do it with Park Avenue.

Billy Fried

Laguna Beach

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