A Community Vision for East & West Fairmount Park

by Andrew Goodman 

I am pleased to give an update on the “Community Vision for East and West Fairmount Park” initiative that was first reported by the Parkside Journal in August 2013. We have been making some great progress, thanks to the input we received from neighbors, park users, and community leaders.

English: "Smith Memorial Arch" (Civi...
English: “Smith Memorial Arch” (Civil War Memorial), North Concourse and Lansdowne Drive, West Fairmont Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1897-1912), James H. and John T. Windrim, architects. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In May 2013, PennPraxis received a grant from the William Penn Foundation to work for Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, the Parks and Recreation Commission, and the Fairmount Park Conservancy to create a “community vision” for the biggest and most signature park space in our city: East and West Fairmount Park. When complete, this vision will be the City’s guide for future decision-making about improvements in the park. For this reason, we want to think big about the future of the park, starting by asking residents how they use the park and how they would like to use the park in the future. We know there have been many “plans” done for West Park, and we hope this can help further elevate community interests.

We have spent the summer and fall learning as much as we can about the park. This outreach culminated in four community meetings we organized to get public input into the process, with emphasis on near neighbors.
Thanks to the great help we received from the community, our public meeting at Discovery Charter School was the best attended to date! Thanks so much to those who helped pull it off: Mr. Burch, Ms. Gomez, Ms. Hudson, the Business Association of West Parkside, Discovery Charter School, and everyone who attended. It was an evening of rich stories and sincere hope for the future of the park.

During the meeting, citizens reviewed our draft “guidelines” of key issues we thought were important that the vision address. These guidelines were:

  • Start by improving how people enter and access the entire park.
  • Protect and enhance all that we already have in Fairmount Park, both natural and man-made
  • Allow people to better enjoy the water.
  • 
Help citizens better understand the park and all it has to offer.
  • Improve Fairmount Park for all residents, starting with near neighbors.
  • Make the park safer and more accessible for people walking and biking; reduce the emphasis on people driving.

We received great feedback from residents about what was missing from these guidelines. Some important points that we heard:

  • The park and nearby neighborhoods are linked: the health of one affects the health of the other.
  • Safety must be addressed as part of future improvements.
  • 
The Park should serve all ages, especially youth.
  • Don’t plan everything! Part of the park’s beauty is how it allows people to “choose their own adventure.”
  • Community organizations and residents need to be more involved in developing park activities.

We want to make sure we hear you accurately, so please let us know if there is something we are missing. Please call us at 215-746-3849 or you can email at praxis@design.upenn.edu.

More project updates can be found on the following website: http://planphilly.com/eastandwestpark. Full copies of the notes from our public meetings can be found online.

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