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Northampton hosts park on the go

  • Smith College Landscape Studies first-year student Anna Levine helps Azure Scher, 3, of Florence blow bubbles at a ParKit mobile parklet deployed outside the Hampshire Regional YMCA in Northampton on Friday, April 19, 2019. Azure's cousin Oliver Audette, center, 5, visiting from Taunton, looks on. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Smith College first-year landscape studies students Elisabeth Nesmith, left, and Phoebe Uman bring a mobile parklet to the Hampshire Regional YMCA in Northampton on Friday. Everything needed for the small temporary park, dubbed ParKit, is transported by a single bicycle hauling this small box trailer and assembled in minutes. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • George Kohout, president of the Friends of the Northampton Trails and Greenways, plays chess with James Bertone-Johnson, 12, in a mobile parklet deployed outside the Hampshire Regional YMCA in Northampton on Friday. James’ father, Reid Bertone-Johnson, is a lecturer in the Smith College Landscape Studies program and guided students in the project including first-years Anna Levine, left, and Elisabeth Nesmith. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Smith College Landscape Studies first-year students Anna Levine, left, Elisabeth Nesmith and Phoebe Uman, right, talk about deploying a mobile parklet near the Valley Bike station (in background) at the Hampshire Regional YMCA in Northampton on Friday, April 19, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 4/20/2019 12:10:27 AM
Modified: 4/20/2019 12:10:14 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Where there was once just mulch, a small park composed of milk crates, board games and cornhole appeared outside of the YMCA on Friday afternoon, assembled in a matter of minutes.

Within a couple of hours, the mobile park, known as ParKit, will be packed back into a wooden box. But through a series of demonstrations, four Smith students and their professor hope to determine sites where permanent parks can be established.

Working with Reid Bertone-Johnson, a lecturer of landscape studies at Smith College, undergraduates began designing the ParKit last year. This year, the student group includes freshmen Phoebe Uman, Anna Levine, Elisabeth Nesmith and junior Zoe Nadig, who began working on the project through Smith’s Student Research in Departments (STRIDE) Program. The program gives selected students $22,500 in scholarship money each year for four years, in addition to a research position.

To create the ParKit, the park’s building blocks are loaded into a wooden trailer that attaches to a bike. The small park — also known as a parklet — can be assembled rapidly at new locations.

Anywhere from five to 15 people typically stop by and use the ParKit, according to the students, which usually stays in place for up to two hours.

“People think it’s fun,” Levine said of the demonstrations, “and they also like how we incorporate the milk crates.”

George Kohout, president of the Friends of the Northampton Trails and Greenways group, said that a creation such as the ParKit, which is “geared toward parks and gatherings,” helps to attract pedestrians and cyclists in a car-dominated society. The students teamed up with the Friends group to determine sites for the park.

Nadig added that the demonstrations also give the group a chance to see different parts of Northampton.

“It’s a cool way to engage with different parts of the community,” Nadig said. “At Smith we’re kind of isolated from the community. Even walking here, it’s a part of Northampton I haven’t seen before.”

The students have also assembled the ParKit at locations such as Friendly’s, Hampshire Heights and the Forbes Library.

The ParKit’s next stop will be at Village Hill on April 27.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at

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