What does a great day at the park look like? As we imagine the possibilities, The Bay team often asks ourselves; what do people want to see, do, listen to, or experience? What’s an ideal day at The Bay?
Great parks make great cities. Civic spaces are an extension of the community - when they work well, they serve as a stage for our public lives. They’re a place where celebrations are held, where friends and neighbors socialize, where strangers become friends, and where cultures mix. In essence, they are the "front porches" of a community. When cities and neighborhoods have thriving civic spaces, residents have a sense of community. Good public parks can nurture the larger community by bringing people together.
We have engaged the public to help us on our journey toward creating a park for all. Countless hours, meetings, public presentations, and surveys were spent connecting and engaging the community, because after all, how can we build a park for all if we don’t know the community’s wants and needs? How do we plan A Day at The Bay, if we don’t know what people want to do?
This past summer, we conducted a survey to get a sense of what kinds of activities and programs visitors would like to do in the park as well as when they’re most likely to visit. With more than 2600 survey takers, we now have a good sense of what the community hopes to do at The Bay.
For instance, the most popular activities are walking, being in nature and watching sunsets and most people plan to visit in the morning or around sunset. We also have a good sense of desirable self-directed activities as well as calendared programs. Equipped with this information, we are using the time before we open phase one in 2022 to pilot offerings and to partner with a variety of providers such as yogis, musicians, and performing arts organizations.
As Chief Experience Officer, my role at The Bay is to design experiences for park goers, to enliven what will be a great civic space, encouraging the community to visit The Park and to stay a while. Converting a parking lot into a public park along Sarasota Bay will be a success when people begin using the park on a regular basis. Currently, the “regulars” include a cross-section of neighbors, dog walkers, boaters, and concert goers. The Bay is the site of several well-established cultural organizations such as the Sarasota Orchestra, The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota Municipal Auditorium, Art Center Sarasota, and the Sarasota Garden Club. As we build, we are strengthening relationships with these organizations as a means of unifying the site and of offering a diverse array of programs and opportunities.
We imagine A Day at The Bay like a walk in the park where visitors wake up to the sunrise reflected over Sarasota Bay, get moving with a walk, jog, or cycle, enjoy a cup of coffee, a bite to eat, attend a free yoga class or concert, toss a disc, walk a dog, take in an exhibit at Art Center or visit The Garden Club. To top it off, enjoy an afternoon paddle or a colorful sunset over Sarasota Bay.
We are grateful to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County for an activation grant to support this effort. We offer free, outdoor yoga and meditation classes, nature tours, musical concerts, theatrical performances, photo walks and much more. A calendar of events is frequently refreshed on our website and highlighted programs are shared in our weekly newsletter. We have also created a sustainable source of funding for free programs by inviting area businesses to become Business Partners to catalyze an activation fund.
Won’t you join us for A Day at The Bay?
This piece was written by Jeannie Perales, Chief Experience Officer at The Bay Park Conservancy.