Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

REALTORS® Bring an Island its First Park

Written by Sarah Rayne, Government and Public Affairs Director, Coastal Association of REALTORS® Pocket Park on Smith Island

The Coastal Association of REALTORS® (CAR) is a big fan of NAR’s Placemaking Grant and has received funding for two community projects over the past two years.

As to the most recent project, our association was contacted by the local Maryland Department of Planning Office regarding a project opportunity on Smith Island, which is an island on the Chesapeake Bay that is only accessible by boat.  The island has about 276 residents and relies heavily on its crabbing and tourism industries. Over the past two years, roughly 15,500 people have visited the island to explore its rich heritage, breathtaking wildlife, and delicious crab cakes, as well as the famed 10-layer Smith Island Cake, which is the official dessert of the State of Maryland.

The state was looking for funding to build what would be the island’s only park on a vacant, abandoned lot currently owned by the local fire department.  The pocket park would feature picnic tables, benches, a bicycle rack, trash receptacles, and landscaping that can stand up to sometimes rough island conditions.

We applied for NAR’s Placemaking Grant and were approved for $5,000.  Our association also contributed about $500 to the project.  Somerset County partnered with us to contribute $200 and an information kiosk. And Smith Island United, which is a citizens group made up of island residents, provided boat transportation for our member volunteers to travel to the island to construct the park.

We then worked with the Department of Planning to order the park equipment and landscaping, and have it all shipped to the island. The islanders graciously built all the equipment once it was shipped and stored it in the firehouse.  All that was left was to build the park.

On June 13, 2017, a group of REALTORS® and association staff members traveled to the island to help build the project.  It was our third attempt as we had to  reschedule the build day  twice due to rain. We bought custom blue hats featuring our logo and the REALTOR® R for all the volunteers to wear. A few members brought their kids for the community service learning opportunity.


To start things off,  members hauled the constructed park equipment from its storage location at the fire house to the vacant lot.


Then everyone pitched in to plant shrubs and grasses along the exterior of the park.


We finished our work by setting the stakes for the information kiosk in concrete and planting a few more shrubs around the kiosk area.


After the work was done, volunteers posed for a group photo with the signs that will hang from the kiosk.  One sign included our logo and another one  was from Somerset County declaring the park as part of their “Trail Mix” program that encourages a healthy lifestyle through outdoor exploration and activities.


In appreciation of the hard work and funding that went into the project, the islanders presented the association with a beautiful plaque that features an aerial photo of the island.


Everyone was pleased with the final product -  the island’s first park.

Picnic tables at the Pocket Park on Smith Island, MD

Photos courtesy of the Coastal Association of REALTORS®

The day wrapped up with a tour of the island’s Visitor’s Center, museum, and historic Methodist church. The volunteers then enjoyed a traditional Smith Island lunch of crab cake sandwiches and Smith Island cake.

This project served to greatly extend our outreach and overall goals as an association of providing opportunities for our members to give back to their communities. Many of our members are involved in community service. It’s important to them and we want to help identify funding and projects that will get them involved and interacting with the public. NAR’s Placemaking Grant is an invaluable resource. We were happy to provide association funding for the project, but it was the grant from NAR that truly made this idea become a reality.


Community Outreach Programs

Housing Opportunity Grant
Housing Opportunity Grants support state and local REALTOR® Associations’ affordable housing activities. The goal of the program is to position REALTORS® as leaders in improving their communities by creating affordable housing

Smart Growth Grant
Smart growth is an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement. The Smart Growth Program offers state and local REALTOR® Associations to way to engage with government officials, community partners and the general public in planning and designing community’s future.

Planned diversity initiatives makes good business sense. REALTOR® Associations with well-planned diversity programs create a stronger sense of community, particularly in neighborhoods with high concentrations of foreign-born and minority residents who are moving up the socioeconomic ladder and are buying homes.

NAR Placemaking Resources

Placemaking Guide: A Guide to Transform a Public Space into a Community Place
REALTORS® and state and local association staff can learn the details of Placemaking, the kinds of projects placemaking entails, how to organize them, and where to go for assistance and resources.

Placemaking Webinar Series
Our Placemaking Webinar Series will provide more in depth information on the various types of Placemaking and how REALTORS® were involved in Placemaking activities in their communities.

Placemaking Grant
The Placemaking Grant funds the creation of new public spaces, like pocket parks, trails & gardens, in a community. The grant focuses on “lighter, cheaper, quicker” placemaking projects, which can be built under a year and cost less  than $200,000.

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Smart Growth

The healthier a community, the better the environment for REALTORS®. Keeping a community attractive, livable and functioning well is a complex task.