One Step Away
9,200 ACRES OF
GREEN SPACE IN
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
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
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
“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