Parkside Edge Project Update

by Jennifer Mahar

There is exciting news for the West Fairmount Park and West Parkside community! On Tuesday,February 4th representatives from the Fairmount Park Conservancy and Studio: Bryan Hanes presented initial design ideas for a new recreation zone’ and other immediate interventions planned for the edge of West Fairmount Park to a group of key community stakeholders in the Parkside neighborhood.

Fairmount Park Conservancy staff meeting with Parkside stakeholders about the Parkside Edge Project.
Fairmount Park Conservancy staff meeting with Parkside stakeholders about the Parkside Edge Project.

Eight years removed from a Centennial District Master Plan that produced several important changes to the area but few that directly impacted the adjacent neighborhood on a daily basis, the Conservancy believes that the time is right to bring community-inspired changes to the park that will dramatically improve the experience of and interaction with the park among Parkside residents.

This planning work has been guided by a set of principles established by the Conservancy and Studio: Bryan Hanes, namely that the project must benefit the surrounding community, celebrate the rich history of the Centennial District, connect to existing local, citywide and regional assets, and offer diverse programming that provides options for all age groups during different seasons.

  1. With these guidelines in mind, the Conservancy identified and presented five key project areas:A gateway where Girard and Parkside meet that will calm traffic at the corner and provide sculpture or signage that designates the historic area.
  2. Parkside Edge improvements, including a plaza-like edge alongside Parkside Avenue, safer crossing features, and bringing some of the park’s gorgeous trees across the Avenue and into the neighborhood.
  3. A new youth play area near Kelly Pool , which would include a small building with restrooms and other amenities that would be open to the public, natural playground feathers, a spray water feature and a ‘trail of water’ that could be waterplay in the summer and ice skating in the winter.
  4. A creative play area just south of Smith Memorial Arch, which would provide recreation opportunities for kids who are slightly older but are still looking for imaginative play and exercise, potentially with giant swings, climbing walls, climbing nets, hammocks and trampolines.
  5. Restoration of the historic Smith Memorial Arch.

At the February 4th meeting the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society was also on hand to report that they have hired Studio: Bryan Hanes to conduct a planning study for improvements to the once-iconic and long idle Welsh Fountain in front of the Please Touch Museum at Memorial Hall. In addition to hardscape and planting improvements, Studio: Bryan Hanes will be exploring ways to make the fountain functional again. Meanwhile, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation recently scheduled improvements to the Abstinence Fountain located near the Mann Center.

In other West Park news, the Conservancy is now working with an engineering firm to determine why Concourse Lake has been losing water. Knowing that so many residents enjoy Concourse Lake, the Conservancy made improvements to the area surrounding the lake several years ago, installing a native plant garden, signage, walking path, and benches. Knowing that maintaining an adequate water level long-term is key for the health of the thriving local habitat, our current work at the lake will allow us to determine the cause of water loss at the lake and ultimately solve the problem, restoring Concourse Lake to proper levels to ensure that it continues to provides a beautiful visiting experience for both people, birds and other animals.

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell at the Parkside Edge meeting at Christ Community Baptist Church
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell at the Parkside Edge meeting at Christ Community Baptist Church

Finally, this we spring will be bringing a fabulous project to communities surrounding West Park. On Saturday, May 10th, the Conservancy will kick off our third annual Love Your Park Week at Parkside Evans. All residents and park user are welcome to join us for a volunteer service day from 9am – 12pm followed by the first ever ‘PUMPJAM’ at the new public Philly Pumptrack from 1pm -4pm.

All are welcome at this event, which will feature demonstrations, raffles, music, giveaways and more, and celebrates the grand opening of Philadelphia’s first pumtrack- the fast-growing attraction in biking among cyclists of all ages.For more information on LOVE YOUR PARK WEEK and the volunteer service day at Parkside Evans, please call 215-988-9334

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