How you get there: Go to the Pub. The park is next door. Which makes two good reasons to go to either.
Why you should go: In the Shinto tradition, a Torii – the ornamental gate at the entrance to a shrine – marks the threshold through which a pilgrim passes from our temporal sphere into the realm of the sacred and divine. It’s hard to enter Red Pine Park through its Torii-inspired gate off lower Wood Avenue and not sense that this, too, may be hallowed ground. The park achieves a rare quality for an urban public space: the sublime.
No wonder. The park was not so much built as realized – saved by neighbors from redevelopment, then fleshed in around the design left by the late Junkoh Harui of Bainbridge Gardens fame, who lived on and tended the half-acre parcel for a generation.
As one follows the meandering path down from the gate, the park unfolds in successive experiences, revelations: a manicured lawn area with flower beds and peaceful benches, a pea patch and lush raised bed area, a quiet orchard of heirloom fruit trees. Calm descends with each step.
Gardeners, hobby botanists and capital-r Romantics can take inspiration or simply marvel at the tastefulness of the upper garden and its many colorful species, from rhododendron to heather to barberry to Japanese maple. Pollinators dot the margins, and bees and small birds dart in and out amongst the foliage.
The pea patch that follows is the picture of plenitude and the bounty of the earth; a recent visit found beds overflowing with rhubarb, artichokes, pumpkins, corn, bushels of tomatoes … hands off! The pea plots are private, available through the Park District on a sign-up basis so you’ll have to get in the queue to tend a bed. But do enjoy an apple from the trees in the final sanctum, the heirloom orchard, or pluck a pole bean along the path from a leafy tower taller than you are.
Quiet, ever dignified in the background are the park’s namesake long-needled pines. It is said that the Harui family patriarch planted Pinus resinosa on the eve of departure for wartime internment, sustained by their symbolic meaning: patience, perseverance. Now as then, balm for a troubled time.
Visit Red Pine Park and reflect. That pint will still be waiting.
Take a leisurely stroll through Red Pine Park, post a few pix on Instagram tagged #12in12biparks, and maybe you will win a cool prize.