If the idea of an Aspen-style gondola ferrying potential shoppers and tourists across the Potomac River from Rosslyn to Georgetown seems farfetched, you probably have yet to encounter the Georgetown Business Improvement District’s newest crowd share pilot project: ParasolShare.
Now the beleaguered shoppers of downtown Georgetown can finally get relief from that relentless and inconvenient foe–sunshine–in the form of light nylon parasols that read “Shop Georgetown. Stay Cool.” The ParasolShare program launched on June 17 and already has caught on with Instagram tags like #GeorgetownParasolShare and #BeatTheHeat showing users exploring the neighborhood with their cheery sunshields in tow. The Georgetown BID has also released an “Abbey Road”-inspired promotional video.
With a system similar to Capital Bikeshare, the concept behind ParasolShare is as follows: during the heat of the summer, shoppers, diners, and residents can pick up one of roughly 250 nylon parasols distributed among over 55 businesses along M Street and K Street (visitors can check the Georgetown BID’s webpage for a list of specific locations).
The parasols can be used for as long as needed, and then dropped off at participating locations when guests are leaving the area.“Use a parasol to shop and stroll, then drop it off when it’s time to roll,” promotional posters explain, although Nancy Miyahira, vice president of the Georgetown Business Improvement District says, “I certainly understand that there might be a few of them that people might not get around to dropping back off. But we also feel like this is sort of a customer amenity program, so it’s not such a bad thing if people can then go on to use the parasol somewhere else.”
The parasols are slightly smaller than a typical umbrella, at 28 inches wide, in order to avoid causing congestion and accidents on the street.
While the pilot parasols do not protect users from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation there may be upgrades “We didn’t want to go too deep into it, but if we keep this program maybe the next iteration is more of a ‘sunbrella,’ where there actually might be UV-ray protection material,” Miyahira says. “We would probably look at a more durable product.”
While a few drawbacks come to mind—chiefly schlepping around yet one more thing, or the difficulties of navigating narrow sidewalks with an umbrella—there is a certain idyllic loveliness, however chichi, associated with the idea of a parasol. Imagine eating an ice cream cone on a park bench under the intimate shade of a shared parasol, or taking a stroll along the waterfront arm-in-arm with a beau. And, hey, if the upgrades go in the direction of silk or lace, Georgetown’s Waterfront Park may start looking less like a commercial shopping area and more like Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.” Why did parasols ever go out of style in the first place?