Paradise is a Parking Lot


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Yes, this is a play on the song Big Yellow Taxi‘s line “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Another part of the song has been hitting me: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Yeah, that too. Ironically, parents and pet owners have been finding a bit of paradise in a crummy old parking lot.

I’m not going to say which parking lots people are using. Since the lockdown began, families have been cooped up in condos or trapped in townhomes, with human kids and fur babies. I would hate if this little bit of relief was taken away.

When parks closed, we had to find an alternative place to play.

The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) closed the parks and the playgrounds in mid-March when the city of Washington responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. The gates of our local parks were locked and the recreational centers closed. It was fine in March when we were mostly inside anyway. Two weeks turned into a month, which turned into 2-3 months. In the meantime, we took Junior out on toddler walks and would spend a little time in the tiny dirt church parking lot. Our tiny postage stamp front yard and small patio did not provide the recreation he needed. So the parking lot and the sidewalks became his new playground.

Not that this new playground alternative is great. My toddler has face-planted several times. Brick is unforgiving for little uncoordinated feet and gravel is no friend either. Sadly, it is a better option than the bookshelf and furniture climbing he’s recently taken to.

Parking lots—with social distancing—provide space for pets and kids to play.

When I ventured out on the bike to get groceries, I noticed others using larger (and less cluttered with cars) parking lots for recreation. When DPR closed the kid parks, they also closed the dog parks as well. So several times I noticed a small cluster of dog owners in the corner of a gated church parking lot as dogs played in the space. Another time, when attempting to tire out a toddler by getting him to walk more, we ventured by a paved parking lot devoid of cars. Families were spread very far apart, young kids were riding bikes and human-powered scooters on the blacktop.

The lengthy coronavirus lockdown is taking its toll. One family on our block relocated early on to their family’s rural vacation home. Another has moved away to the suburbs in the past week, and are preparing their home to rent. We have been thinking about moving out of the city to be closer to my husband’s work in Maryland. I had wanted to stick around to take advantage of DC’s free Pre-K. The things that made the city and living close to Downtown great for us are now closed. It’s up in the air when and if those places will open. Now I’m itching to sell and trade in the townhome I’ve renovated for a house with a larger yard, all for the lack of a park.

What have you done to help get your toddler’s ya-yas out? Has walking the neighborhood helped? Or have you found parking lots to be an alternative paradise?