The establishment and maintenance of little parks is a sign of the vibrance of a city. I'm not speaking about your large, bustling, playground-enhanced, multi-acre extravaganzas. I'm talking about a small corner with some grass, a tree or two, a bench or picnic table, perhaps a garbage can, or a dog dookie bag dispenser. The small spaces are vital refuges in the overall mosaic of a city's functions.
This one near the border of Scottsdale and Phoenix is next to a spacious bike lane on one side and the canal on the other. From here, it's not far to good coffee, or good spins. In the summer, the tree offers some shade, which can be crucial when it's 110 degrees and I just want a place to cool my jets for a minute and drink a bottle of water. A little park like this is not going to attract a huge crowd or a noisy throng. But if you want a spot to rest a bit, or meet for a bike ride, or (apparently) a grassy spot for your dog to defecate, a little park is the place. Wheel your bike in, prop it against the fence or a bench, take a load off. Bikes welcome here.
Not sure if this one has a name or not. One online maps has it labeled "Lafayette Parkway," which sounds more like a street than a park, although the nearby similarly named street (the one with the bike lane in the photo above) is Lafayette Blvd. It could also be called "Lafayette Flood Control Basin," but that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
I try to spend a few minutes in a small park or two in cities I visit, to get a different point of view. I talked with an old man in a tiny spot off Calle de Miguel de Cervantes overlooking rolling hills on a bright Christmas Day in Toledo, Spain. Merida, Yucatan is full of little squares of greenery, benches, and tradition, most of them with names: Parque Hidalgo, Parque de Santiago, Parque de Santa Lucia. New York City, too, has its notable small parks. While working up an appetite for the Empire Diner, I spent a pleasant hour in Clement Clarke Moore Park, pictured below, watching life stream through it, from old people sitting on benches reading the news, to the school kids playing kickball and irritating the old people. In the thorough description linked above, you can read that Mr. Moore was the author of "The Night Before Christmas," was fluent in six languages, and an all-around neat guy. This little park, like many others, is an island of peace and relative quiet in a sea of cars and noise. On the other side of the trees is Everything Else, but in here, people walk, and ride their bikes, children play, and birds feed. And damn it, I have no idea what thing is hanging from the tree in the Lafayette Parkway picture above. I'll just have to ride back there and have another look. Get up. Go ride.