Better Block activities in Lafayette

Whew. Thanks to prescription meds, a metric ton of Powerade (all colors, of course) and a LOT of taking it easy, and I finally have the energy to think and type again!

I wrote earlier this month about the Better Block events happening around Lafayette. Better Block is a nonprofit organization started a few years ago by Jason Roberts, and their focus is essentially on guerrilla urban planning. Jason began taking underused spaces, mainly outdoors and quickly transforming them into parklets, pop-up art galleries and entire redesigned street blocks that include designated bike lanes, tables and chairs, trees, pop-up businesses, and other useful and enjoyable items for neighborhood residents to enjoy. They made the concept open source and teach others how to develop their own Better Block projects.

Enter Lafayette, May 2014. Jason came to speak last week to members of the 705, and this week to members of the public. He told the story of how Better Block came to be, showed lots of project pictures and shared some of the great results his projects. I loved his energetic presentation and really enjoyed how nature is always tied into his projects and demonstrations, whether it's creating bike lanes or adding trees and flowers to an otherwise ugly street. I also find it inspiring that his projects come together in 30 days, a deadline he is proud to adhere to. Instead of city plans being hung up in the planning phase and in artist renderings for years, he actually creates what those renderings look like in 30 days, to show neighborhood residents exactly what the project could look and function like if the city would complete the plan.

This week, Downtown Lafayette implemented its first Better Block project - a parklet right in the heart of downtown! One parallel parking space was covered with wood and pallets, and tables and chairs (with adorable floral arrangements) were set out. The space was completed with cheerful umbrellas and string lights. I don't know if it's still up or not, but I hope you got to check it out!

Yesterday, we took to Bertrand Dr. in Lafayette to pick up trash in preparation for the full Better Block demonstration, which will happen on Saturday, May 31! We picked up lots of trash along the roadway and in the open grassy areas, including many cans, pieces of styrofoam and cigarette butts. I certainly did not pick up the most trash, but I focused on getting those smaller pieces and all of the cigarette butts I could see. It was actually hard to leave even though there was still more litter. (Of course maybe if I had shown up on time, I could've gotten to more! Shame on me.) One resident on the road came out to thank us for picking up trash, and she expressed her excitement over Better Block happening just beyond her front yard. It always feels good to hear positive feedback from the residents even more directly affected than us!

If you are interested in Lafayette's Better Block Bertrand project, you can like their Facebook page to stay updated! The more people who come out to enjoy it, the bigger a statement we can make!

Ride your bike or walk over from the Horse Farm Farmer's Market on Saturday, May 31st from 10am to 5pm. Bertrand Drive will transform into a two-lane pedestrian friendly street, with live music by Jamie Bergeron, a pop-up park, fun jumps for kids, bicycle paths, a dog park, outdoor cafe', food trucks, face painting, outdoor yoga and more!

It may not seem like a huge transformation, but it very much is. Once you see what Lafayette can be, you might be more inspired to have a hand in changing Lafayette permanently!

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