Tom Korman isn’t someone who likes to sit still in front of the TV or the computer, so when he lost his job for pandemic-related reasons in 2021, he began looking for a way to get outside and be physical.
He soon learned about Fairmount Park Conservancy’s volunteer programs, and he’s been an active participant ever since, tackling invasive weeds along the Trolley Trail, planting trees behind the tennis courts in Parkside Evans, and, most recently, graduating from the Conservancy’s six-week Volunteer Leader training.
“I like being outside. I like the labor. I like working with other volunteers and having a common goal,” says Tom, 68. “Learning to use the tools and working in the ground, it’s just very rewarding and the results are pretty obvious. You walk away after two hours with a sense of accomplishment.”
Tom was one of over 2,000 people who volunteered with the Conservancy last year, giving much needed support to parks across the city. Some of these areas are so overgrown that their past uses are completely hidden. Tom remembers his confusion when he joined a team of volunteers at a park in Wynnefield. He saw only dense greenery. “I was like, ‘Why are we doing this? There’s nothing there. Why would we even go in there?’
Then Eduardo Duenas, the Conservancy’s Volunteer Manager, pointed out the thick, invasive vines smothering the trees and talked about a paved path that once invited visitors to the park. The volunteers worked hard to free the trees – including cherry blossoms – and soon removed enough weeds and dirt to reveal the old sidewalk. A local resident told the group that, as a child, he and his parents regularly took that path all the way to Robin Hood Dell.
“With FPC, you’re sometimes working on areas that haven’t been looked at for years,” Tom says. “It’s a way to contribute to the community.”
Tom says he’s learned a lot beyond planting, weeding and mulching. He didn’t know much about plants when he started; now he can identify different trees and weeds. He hadn’t known Fairmount Park’s history and was unaware of its vastness. He recently jumped at the chance to work in West Fairmount Park at Boelsen Cottage because he hadn’t even known the structure existed.
“I’ve lived here my whole life and this was built in the late 1600s. It’s the oldest building in Fairmount Park and I never knew it was there,” Tom says. “There are always new parts of the city to discover.”
Click here for ways to volunteer with Fairmount Park Conservancy.