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10

One Step Away

NOVEMBER 2016

9,200 ACRES OF

GREEN SPACE IN

PHILADELPHIA

P

hiladelphia’s favorite 9,200-acre Fairmount Park

was one of the five public spaces in the nation

designated as a Great Public Space in America,

by the American Planning Association (APA),

beating iconic parks across the country including Central

Park in New York City, Millennium Park in Chicago, and

the Boston Common in, you gussed it, Boston. Fairmount

Park is also the largest urban landscaped park in the

United States. We are especially proud of our city's Parks &

Recreation Department and all they offer to not only beautify

Phladelphia but also provide unique opportunities for our

communities. In receiving such an accolade, we decided

to examine what exactly makes Fairmount Park so great.

Fairmount Parks Conservancy's Exectuive Director, Rick

Magder and APA President, Carol Rhae gave some insight

on the matter.

According to the APA, a public space can be any area within

the public realm that helps promote social interaction and a

sense of community, including a neighborhood’s gathering

spot, a downtown special district, or a waterfront.

“[Fairmount Park] is such an integral part of the city,” said

Carol Rhae. “It’s right there in the center. It’s an oasis.”

Much of what the APA highlighted about the largest urban

landscaped park in the nation include its assembly around

watershed health, historical interpretations into the lives

of prominent Philadelphians, orchard and greenhouses,

ability for children and adults to participate in sports, and

opportunities for nature education and wildlife observation.

This, like many other APA designations puts Fairmount

Park on the map. As tourists and adventurers make their

way to Philadelphia, they will wonder what is so great about

Fairmount Park.

The APA had not always recognized public spaces in

its Great Places designations — it also designates Great

Neighborhoods and Great Streets.

“There was this time where we thought, ‘Well, everyone’s got

a backyard. We don’t need a public park,’ and we found that

is not true,” Rhae said. “Public parks serve, in some ways, as

the community glue. Instead of a collection of homes, people

By Alexis Wright-Whitley

"Without parks, it'd hardly be a

city anyone would want to live in.

Parks are where all different kinds

of people meet. They are a part of

democratizing our community."

Photos provided by Fairmount Park Conservancy

Fairmount Park voted Greatest Public Space in America

"They get a lot of satisfaction out of

seeing Fairmount Park come together.

But we find this designation just

affirms what we knew all along: this

was a good idea."

can gather there. They can meet their neighbors. That’s where

events are held. It creates community identity.”

Rick Magder holds similar views on the important role

public parks play.

“Without parks, it’d hardly be a city anyone would want

to live in,” Magder said. “Parks are where all different

kinds of people meet. They are a part of democratizing our

community.”

Since assuming the role in September, Magder enjoys the

many elements of the park. He noted that when many people

think of Fairmount Park, they tend to only think of it as East

and West Fairmount Park, divided by the Schuylkill River,

but an immense amount of green space exists that are not

just in those two well-known sections of the park. There

are also neighborhood parks, watershed parks, and cultural

institutions.

“All planners work as volunteers, and we know how much

blood, sweat, and tears go into some of these projects,” Rhae

said. “We also know in many cases, there have been groups

of people who have been championing this idea many years

before it comes to fruition, and so they’ve gotten a lot of

satisfaction out of seeing Fairmount Park come together. But

we find this designation just affirms what we knew all along:

this was a good idea.”

Magder also shed light a few big things on the horizon

for Fairmount Park, including revilization projects of

West Fairmount Park, adding new features to Strawberry

Mansion's neighborhood through with ArtPlace, and

transforming the entire parks system through the Rebuild

Initiative, spearheaded by the Mayor's Office.

It is time to take a look at two of the many good ideas that

Fairmount Parkhas tooffer to its Philadelphianeighborhoods:

Philly Pumptrack in Parkside and Mifflin Square Park.

To learn more about Fairmount Park or how to join their

network of volunteers beautifying our neighborhoods,

throughout the city, visit:

myphillypark.org