The little speck of green bounded by West Parrish Street, West Main Street, and North Mangum Avenue has long been known as “Chicken Bone Park”. Not located on any official maps, not officially designated a park, nor shown on any of the City’s Master Plans, it is the last remaining public green space inside Durham’s Downtown Loop.
Years ago, when downtown was empty, it was a frequent of the homeless and otherwise unsheltered. More recently, a local church organizes a Wednesday meet-up to feed homeless Durham residents lunch and share live music.
For a long time Chicken Bone Park was across the street from Revolution, adjacent to Gurley’s Pharmacy, and kitty-corner to Loaf, Dos Perros, and The Pinhook, but that was it. The last eighteen months have seen a slew of nearby businesses open including the restaurant Luna, Arrow Studio, Empower Dance Studio, Pie Pushers, The Zen Succulent, and several more.
Foot traffic has greatly increased in the pocket park. Seeing an opportunity, Durham city officials decided to provide chairs and café tables for public use.
What made me sit up and take notice is these chairs and tables are mobile. They can be moved and reconfigured as the public user desires. This is a big hospitality upgrade from the concrete tables and benches in the plaza near Major the Bull. Moreover, it is a huge sign of trust. It signals and affirms to both Durham’s public and visitors (like the slew of out-of-towners in for Moogfest) that we think crime in downtown is low. Permanent, immovable concrete tables and bench are anti-theft. These café chairs and tables are just the opposite, so lightweight your Granny could move one without a second thought.
Now Durham’s city officials weren’t born yesterday. There are new cameras in Chicken Bone Park, too, where they can observe how much usage the new furniture is getting, as well as deter and monitor theft.
It is a great little upgrade for downtown.
While I was sitting in Chicken Bone Park today crushing some Pie Pushers, sidenote: I love that they open at 11am for lunch rather than 11.30am, there was a lot of foot traffic and some use of the tables. I was reminded again of our adage, “Durham’s only two and a half degrees of separation instead of the usual six.” First, an old friend, walked by. She is now co-working out of Gridworks. Another new business immediately adjacent to the park, Gridworks from American Underground is located in the Kress Building (an old Durham beauty currently getting a facelift). She was headed to Scratch bakery, just down Orange Street.
That conversation had hardly finished when my friend, Tad Hunt, came strolling by on his way to our mutual co-working space, The Mothership. Tad is a fantastic photographer and a music aficionado, so naturally he was still floating around on Moogfest residual vibes.
It was a reminder. Here I was, sitting in the public space, the zócalo, such as it is in downtown Durham. The value and social function of the public park has a long and storied history. Durham would do well to make sure we are conscious of what we have. It would be a tragedy to see Chicken Bone Park go the way of the Green Wall.