/ Saturday, February 4, 2012 /

Driving down Bridge Street or jogging along its sidewalk near Trinity High School, you may have noticed something doesn't look right when you pass by the Derryfield Park. It's not a bad looking park; nice, grassy field, new playground and even a gazebo, but something is amiss. Maybe it's because it looks like there should be a bus stop every 50 feet along the sidewalk. 

The benches that line the park's outer edge, along Bridge Street, all face one the city's most heavily trafficked corridors instead of the nice park behind them. It's a weird decision in urban planning and the only conclusions I drew from it were that either the original parks planner thought the benches might be better utilized in winter if they faced south, melting the inevitable snow build-up, or that the homeless would be more conspicuous sleeping on them.

Curious, I sent out an email to Manchester's Parks Planner, Jessica Fleming. She kindly responded with a call and explained that she had asked the same question a few years ago when she took the job. When she asked around, the answer she received was that the benches were rest areas for walkers and joggers heading up the steep hill that the park sits on. But no one knew for sure, as any person could take the extra step to sit on a park facing bench, or the city could have settled on backless benches giving joggers and park goers the option to sit either way. 

There were no definitive conclusions, as the benches have been there for many years now, but Fleming mentioned that if the benches were to be replaced, they would probably face the park or be backless instead.

The slanted benches of Livingston Park.
Along with my inquiry into the Derryfield Park benches, I asked about the benches in Livingston Park that are slanted towards the ground. Once again, I thought it was a deterrent to keep people from sleeping on them, similar to the rash of anti-homeless benches springing up in Tokyo. Fleming explained that was not the case at all, and that they are sloped downwards from overuse. "It's one of our most trafficked parks and they're the wrong benches for the application," she said.


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