That “park” next to the green wall at Main and Corcoran streets isn’t really a park. The land doesn’t even belong the city. But it’s one of several de facto open spaces in downtown Durham that the community has claimed for its own.

“Because of its industrial legacy as a railroad and tobacco town,” the city’s Downtown Open Space Plan states, Durham’s core “did not develop around a planned network of open spaces. There is no central natural feature, such as a riverfront.”

City leaders are tweaking the Downtown Open Space Plan to improve the existing public open spaces, the ones the city really owns. Where is Rotary Park, you say? Hidden in plain sight at Mangum and Morgan streets.

Yet there are other cocoons of green space that would make lovely parks: Put a few benches in the slot near Roxboro and Church streets; plant some trees to cool the urban heat island known as the parking lot across Mangum Street near City Hall.

What downtown Durham has is apartments and condos, beer and coffee, pizza and cupcakes. What it needs is a coherent system of public spaces.

Read the proposed Downtown Durham Open Space Plan here.

Acres within downtown Durham: 700

Percentage of downtown covered by trees: 6.5%

That amount in acres: 45

This article appeared in print with the headline “The great wide open.”