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They Paved Paradise and Put Up a ...Forest?

Akron, Ohio, was a booming city in the mid-20th century. They built a highway through the middle of town called the Innerbelt to ease commuter traffic. But more than 50 years later, the road was barely used, and was closed in 2015. What to do with the city space now? Residents wanted it turned into a green space. Designer Hunter Franks went to work to make the Innerbelt National Forest a reality.

At first, the city insisted that he plant trees in pots, so his “Innerbelt National Forest” would be easier to remove. In time, he was allowed to plant them in the ground, while also putting in a stage, a children’s play area, a mulch trail and other amenities. The park, which opened in August, was an immediate hit. Although it was originally seen as temporary, talk soon started up about extending its life, or even making it permanent. “Some or all or most of it may end up staying,” says Jason Segedy, Akron’s planning director.

Residents, posting pictures of the park on Instagram, keep comparing it to an old Joni Mitchell song, noting that it’s the reverse of her 1970 lyric about paving paradise to put up a parking lot. The fact that a disused freeway can become a pop-up forest makes it easy to envision turning practically any area into green space, Franks says.

Read more about the Innerbelt National Forest project at Governing. -via Metafilter

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This story sent me down a rabbit hole of eastern cities and their population decline. I’ve been moved as industries change. Returning visits to depopulated cites is depressing. Right now my town is suffering from the collapse of retail. I hope it turns into Akron and not Detroit.
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