How South End’s Most Popular Bench Came to Be

May 22, 2017 5:19 pm

Walking down the Rail trail, there is a lot to see – eye-catching art, run clubs from nearby breweries, families out on walks, and dogs galore. When three runners heard about an opportunity to improve this active place, they knew a spot to take it all in was exactly what the Light Rail needed.

When Liz Richardson, Darcy Everett and Ken Jones heard about the 2016 South End Placemaking Micro-Grants being offered for projects that improve the community, they put their design expertise and running experience together to propose Runner’s Respite, an interactive bench that would provide Rail Trail users with a place to take a break or do an activity.

“When we were thinking about the idea of placemaking, what stuck with us and what we wanted our implementation to be focused around was something that plays into the way a space is already being used and find a way to make it more welcome,” says Richardson.

As grant recipients, the team designed a bench that built off of the retaining wall behind Shook-Kelley and created a space for people to gather and relax. Along with a place to sit down, the bench provided a push up bar on one end for people who wanted to keep their workout going. In August of 2016, Runner’s Respite was up and ready.

“When we were installing it, we got so much positive feedback,” says Richardson. “Literally people thanking us.”

During its appearance on the Rail Trail, Runner’s Respite was not only used by runners and walkers, but also made a few appearances in family holiday cards and in a photoshoot for a boutique. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and Runner’s Respite was retired in December of 2016. The good news is that with change comes opportunity and with opportunity comes another round of micro-grants, now called South End Creative Lab.

Do you have an idea for how South End can be even better? Make it happen by applying for a 2017 grant by June 8th. For people considering applying, former grant recipient Richardson offers up her advice on the power of collaboration: “Don’t let what you think you can’t do limit your ideas. It’s likely that there’s someone that someone knows that is interested and could be really helpful in doing something even bigger than you imagined.”

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