Watershed’s Green Roof and Rain Barrels at Princeton Parklet

The Princeton Parklet opened Saturday, featuring live music, free ice cream and displays of rain barrels and green roofs by The Watershed Institute.

The Parklet, which spans two parking spaces on Witherspoon Street, is a public gathering space where residents, visitors and passersby can literally step out of the hubbub of the streets, said Maria Evans, of the Princeton Arts Council which has organized the pop-up park for three years. She said this year’s Parklet will remain open until early November.

Jim Waltman, executive director of The Watershed Institute, said this year’s Parklet demonstrates a few strategies – a green roof with living plants and rain barrels to help manage stormwater, which otherwise carries oil, pesticides, trash and other pollutants into our streams and rivers.

“The biggest source of water pollution is all of us. This issue of polluted stormwater runoff is something our scientists, educators and advocates are focused on and we want to work with you to help capture stormwater with green spaces,” Waltman said. “We invite everyone to visit The Watershed Center to learn more about keeping water clean, safe and healthy.”

Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, who was out of town, said Parklet is something magical and special, making city sidewalks fun.

“It’s amazing how much park can be squeezed into two parking spaces,” she wrote in remarks read by Princeton Councilman Tim Quinn.

Outdoor gathering spots are where people enjoy a meal, have al fresco meetings, read books, and play chess until late at night.

Jessica Durrie, co-owner of Small World Coffee, said this is the second time the Parklet has been located outside of her coffee house.  Instead of having two people’s cars occupy those spaces for the maximum time allowed on the parking meters, she counted more than 40 people relaxing in the Parklet for the same time period on a recent day.

“How do you value use? It is especially important to invest in community arts projects, especially as downtown retail landscapes are changing in our country,” Durrie said. “These kinds of collaborations help downtowns remain dynamic, purposeful and beneficial to all.”

Several people stopped at the Watershed’s display of a miniature house with a green roof and read the interpretive signage.

Raymond Wasseff of Skillman was one of those, along with his daughter Emily, 8.

“We learned about the savings that one could get in terms of energy costs,” he said. “It would be nice to have a green, flowering roof.”

Sponsors of this year’s Parklet include: The Watershed Institute, Princeton University, Small World Coffee, Joseph Hobart Weiss Architect, Davidge Design Studio, Pam Floury and Princeton Day School students, Palmer Square/Nassau Inn, Hamilton Building Supply Company, Leonard Busch Associates, MacLean Agency, and the Municipality of Princeton.