The Placemade Diaries: Observing the San Roque Elementary School Park

One of Placemade‘s pilot projects is to work on the Elementary School Park and waiting area. This was suggested by the Marikina City Government and supported by Barangay San Roque.

This urban diary will contain my observation notes, photos, and videos of the area, when I visited last Aug. 16, 2018.

Location

The park is located at M.A. Roxas corner N. Roxas, right beside the San Roque Elementary School.

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San Roque has a population of 17,945 (2015), and a land area of 115.79 has. (5% of the city’s land area).

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The project site is marked with the yellow polygon.

Let’s divide the site into two parts:

  • (1) Park (the yellow box); and
  • (2) Parking area (the blue box)

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Below is a video that looks into the two areas:

 

The Park

I visited the park on a Thursday, at 4-5PM, went around to take photos, and stayed to observe how people used the space.

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View from N. Roxas side.

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This view is facing the street corner.

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Made a rushed sketch of the park elements just to remember where things are.

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There are four fixed, curved benches could seat three to four people per bench.

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This was the longest bench, but you could see how students have to stoop because there aren’t any tables, making the experience of reading a book uncomfortable.

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Kids just seem to play with whatever infrastructure is available, which includes the fence. Also, cyclists have nowhere to lock their bikes on, and just left the bikes unguarded under the tent.

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Beside the tents, right before the tricycle parking area, a covered yellow cart of recyclables is stationed. The area has trash, though there seem to be cleaning efforts based on the dustpan and garbage sacks hanging on the small fence.

 

From the video, we can also observe that:

  • Kids continue to use what they can play with, in this case, jumping to reach tent bars, while other kids continue to watch
  • Groups of people (youth, particularly) huddle together and dominate a certain bench for their use
  • There’s a nice, big paw shape at the center of the park
  • The concrete floor hasn’t been well-maintained, you can see some cracks, while paint on the floor and the benches has also faded
  • Gravel is used to fill up the paw, which makes walking on most of the park uninviting (and easier for playing kids to get wounds, should they fall on the floor)
  • Vegetation: There are four trees in the park area, and some shrubs that line the fences and school wall, but there is hardly any grass (wild grass pockets are visible)
  • There are two entrances to the park, one on N. Roxas, and one coming from the adjacent parking lot / waiting area
  • The side of the park has two big tents, and to its left (M.A. Roxas side), a tricycle TODA (local operations) desk and parked trikes cover the path to the sidewalk

Other thoughts from the observation, based on usual park activities, include:

  • If I wanted to eat a snack, I wouldn’t have a table to put my food on
  • There weren’t any trash cans nearby
  • The traffic beside the park was terrible, so honking cars and pollution really affect the space
  • I wouldn’t really stay for more than thirty minutes if I wanted to do some activities in the park (public spaces are supposed to be as comfortable as when you are at home), so chairs with backrests, tables, and play equipment / installations would improve the space

 

The Parking Area

For lack of a better name, the second space will be called “parking area” for the meantime, given how cars are parked in the space.

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View from the corner between the Health Building and the Elementary School

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View from the M.A. Roxas side. Most of the space is not being used, except by passersby.

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A locked Barangay Office is located within the space.

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The space is mostly empty, except for some parked cars. Gravel is scattered in the area.

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Benches under the waiting sheds are used by groups of people to rest and talk. Particularly during this observation period, there were two groups, consisting of (1) young men and (2) older men. A motorcycle  was parked right beside the benches.

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Cracks were visible along the sidewalk beside the parking area,

 

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Walking by this part of the space was awful, because there was a stinking carcass of a dead dog in the lot. This is rather peculiar because this space is right beside the Health Center of the barangay.

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There was ongoing renovations for the school, and construction materials were placed on part of the lot.

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During the observation, only one girl used the waiting shed bars. (This photo was taken with her permission.)

 

Observations

Observations include:

  • If public spaces are supposed to feel inviting for people for them to use it, then spaces should be first and foremost clean. The “parking lot” had trash in some areas, a dead animal (which is a cause of concern for health and sanitation), and of course, the smell of the latter becomes deterrent
  • Safety in public spaces is also key. While there were walls along the construction area and construction materials, there was still a risk, especially if kids would play openly on the space
  • It felt awkward to try to sit beside the groups of men, putting sitting spaces that aren’t immediately beside each other may feel more welcoming
  • Like the park, the space really as comfortable for doing activities

 

The Streets: N. Roxas cor. M.A. Roxas

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To the north, N. Roxas connects J.P. Rizal, which is a main thoroughfare of Marikina City, and to the south, Marcos Hi-Way. J.P. Rizal is a parallel street of M.A. Roxas.

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This sidewalk is on N. Roxas Street. To the right is the entrance to the park, and to the left is a waiting with seats.

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The two streets have heavy traffic, and pedestrian spaces leading to the park are violated by many drivers. Octopus electric wires are also a hazard to the public space. 

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The vehicles on N. Roxas really pose danger on pedestrians, such as in this photo, where a car stopped short inches from crossing youth.

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The M.A. Roxas side of the park becomes busy due to the tricycle operations.

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This picture shows the difficulty for cyclists and pedestrians to cross from the other side of M.A. Roxas to the park, due to the many vehicles of N. Roxas.

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While there is a one-meter bike lane from M.A. Roxas that should connect to the park, pedestrian crosslanes are also blocked by many moving vehicles.

Next steps

The next steps would be to engage with the public space users (the nearby residents, the tricycle drivers, the school administration, and the students) on what they think could improve the park area, and how they can participate.

(End of diary entry.)

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