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CITY TALK: Recent events highlight Savannah's public spaces

On Sunday afternoon, Forsyth Park was filled with activity, as it often is at this time of year.

At the south end of the park, people were playing organized games of basketball, tennis, Ultimate (often called “ultimate Frisbee”), volleyball and even kickball. Those folks were outnumbered by the many others walking, jogging, lounging and generally enjoying the lovely spring day.

The two playgrounds were packed, a young couple was playing the public xylophone and multiple musicians, including a young string trio, were performing on the wide path near the fountain.

Interestingly, although I saw a few bicycles parked in Forsyth, I didn’t see a single rider on my walk down the center path from Park Avenue to Gaston Street.

On days like Sunday, one is reminded of Savannah’s wise stewardship of public spaces like Forsyth Park.

I was bound for Lafayette Square — another tremendous public space — for the “homemade parade” and quirky street fair celebrating the belated birthday of author Flannery O’Connor, whose childhood home at 207 E. Charlton St. is a museum house. (I am a former board member.)

Sometimes we forget that Savannah’s squares were originally conceived as utilitarian public spaces, so it was great to see Lafayette Square used for such a local celebration. The southwest quadrant of the square was even taken over by local authors who were displaying and selling their books.

Like clockwork, tour buses rolled by the O’Connor celebration, and for a few moments the tourists weren’t seeing a pristine, serene square, but one filled with local life and flavor.

I was also fortunate to spend a few hours over the weekend in another public space — the North Garden at the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum.

The Savannah Music Festival made tremendous use of the North Garden over the last three weeks. On Friday, the festival sold more than 1,200 total tickets for the two riveting shows by roots musician Rhiannon Giddens and Zimbabwe-based Mokoomba.

The North Garden at Ships of the Sea also proved a tremendous venue for Savannah Stopover in March.

Hey, I’ve got nothing against weddings, and it’s a real boost for the local economy that Savannah has become such a prized wedding destination.

But wouldn’t it be great to find ways to encourage organizations to make greater use of our squares and other public spaces for events that both locals and visitors can enjoy?

Let’s hope some of those ideas rise to the top in the coming months and years.

 

City Talk appears every Sunday and Tuesday. Bill Dawers can be reached via billdawers@comcast.net. Send mail to 10 E. 32nd St., Savannah, GA 31401.

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