9721_10-1-1936_highbridge-poo

I saw this Treehugger post recently and thought it was a fine example of creativity meeting sustainability and a truly third way – head on in a perfect blend.

Much of what the Works Progress Administration (WPA) did in the 1930’s involved building and renovating new parks and public pools. For many years I benefited from some of those programs every time I hiked through Devil’s Den State Park in Northwest Arkansas. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), part of the efforts of the WPA, built Devil’s Den (just as they did for so many other parks at that time) and each time anyone steps on the trails or sleeps in the cabins in the park they are enjoying the work of the CCC – over 70 years after those paths were cleared and those stones were set.

The idea that caught my attention in the recent Treehugger piece involved pools. Specifically the massive public pools built during the Depression. The people who designed the pools clearly thought about how those public spaces could be enjoyed all the time, not just during the summer months when it was warm enough to swim, wade and sun bathe with neighbors (or your whole neighborhood – simultaneously, in fact – by the look of these huge facilities).

The architects developed designs that allowed the pools to transform when drained. The empty pools became fall and winter spaces for paddle tennis, shuffleboard, volleyball, basketball, and handball – even roller skating rinks. The indoor locker rooms and changing areas for the pools were adapted for boxing instruction and evening dance halls for teens. Mind you, this was before skateboards, or they might have turned them into off-season skate parks.

Space and resources were not wasted. Year-round community-building was encouraged. A sense of having created something worthwhile and versatile was instilled.

Our country has just passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It is very much like the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 that funded the Works Progress Administration. This time around will we use our resources wisely? Will we come up with flexible solutions that work for our citizens in all seasons – and for decades to come? Will we invest in projects that build community and culture in innovative, practical ways?

I hope so because that’s the kind of stimulus we need.

Advertisements