Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is the Salem Jail Greenspace really that small?

Salem Jail Greenspace

Proponents of a parking lot for the Salem Jail green space all say nearly the same thing:  “It’s a dinky little space near cars and traffic!  Why do you want it green?”

Indeed it doesn’t look like much now, littered by construction on the north end (a backhoe was busy laying down sewer pipes, behind the black van in the photo, this afternoon) and that same van and many other vehicles parking on the south side, “my” side.

But is this space really that small?

I set out to take measurements to find out.  I used my feet and a cheap pedometer:

Cheap pedometer

This is a cheap pedometer one can find at Wal-Mart and like stores.  The McDonalds chain was selling ones like these a few years ago as sort of an adult Happy Meal.

This one, like most, can be calibrated to your step size and show your miles walked;  I use it to make sure I’m really walking that far when I go to Salem Willows in the season (which can’t start soon enough!)

To set a pedometer like this, the best way is to walk a known distance, say a city block, several times and average out the number of steps taken.  Then divide the distance in feet by steps taken and multiply by 12 to get your step size to enter into the device.

Since there are few spots in Salem with mile markers accessible to pedestrians, I used Daft Logic’s Google Maps Distance Calculator to get the distance of a block I walk every day, the stretch from Essex St. from Washington Square to New Liberty.  It’s about 446 feet, from the Philips Library corner to Armory Park outside the PEM entrance. 

My pedometer and my notes say I walked this in 160 steps, so that corresponds to 33-1/2 inches.  Can’t put this into my pedometer so 33 inches is good enough.  Neither it, nor my feet, are precision instruments.

Combine this with high-school math and some walking to get a rough measurement of square footage.

I’m not a civil engineer or a surveyor, but this should be close enough to get some idea.  Many people can’t visualize what square footage really means and this is a good way to visualize it.

I visited several parks in my neighborhood and compare them against the Jail green space, which people have suggested be named “Monopoly Park” (A name I would enthusiastically endorse!)

Is Monopoly Park really big enough to be a “real” park?

You might be surprised.

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