WHY DO WE NEED THE PARK PLAN?
FDR Park is an extremely well-used and well-loved park that serves Philadelphia’s diverse, ever-changing population by providing open spaces for gathering, recreation, and enjoying nature. The park has always been and continues to be a natural oasis and welcoming space for high-need populations including immigrant and refugee communities and underserved communities. However, the park today struggles with underfunding, deferred maintenance, and frequent flooding. While the park faces many challenges, the opportunities at this 348-acre site are unique and unlike any other park in the region. 

WHAT ARE THE ROLES OF PHILADELPHIA PARKS & RECREATION, FAIRMOUNT PARK CONSERVANCY, AND FRIENDS OF FDR PARK IN THE FDR PARK PLAN?
Philadelphia Parks & Recreation is a City department that initiated the planning process. They are the landowner and responsible for the maintenance and permitting of FDR Park. Prior to the launch of the Park Plan, FDR was an unstaffed, mostly passive parkland. In March 2020, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation appointed FDR Park’s first Executive Director. Since then, additional full-time Parks & Recreation staff and PowerCorpsPHL members have come on board to lead stewardship and volunteer coordination efforts in the park.

Fairmount Park Conservancy (FPC) is a nonprofit organization that led the Plan, is leading the current fundraising initiatives, and has been hired by the City to lead the implementation of the Plan, while supporting FDR Park’s users through temporary restrooms, signage, and ongoing public programs.

Friends of FDR Park acts as a community voice for the park and organizes fellow volunteers in planting, greening, fundraising, and event planning. Friends of FDR is part of a citywide network of neighborhood park volunteers coordinated by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Fairmount Park Conservancy.

WHO WAS INVOLVED IN THE PLANNING PROCESS?
During the year-long planning process, the project team engaged over 3,000 community members and stakeholders. Since FDR Park is one of the most heavily used parks in Philadelphia, the planning process was conducted in five languages and structured to ensure that all park users and communities were invited and had the chance to weigh in on the future of the park. The team engaged community members through in-person interviews with park users, public meetings, hands-on workshops, a mobile planning booth, and surveys with opportunities for residents to give feedback by designing their ideal park. The project team also hired five Park Ambassadors from the surrounding neighborhood to engage park users and their fellow community members. 

DURING COVID, MANY COMMUNITY MEMBERS DISCOVERED FDR PARK FOR THE FIRST TIME. SHOULD THE PLAN BE RECONSIDERED TO ACCOUNT FOR NEW FEEDBACK?
Although the extensive planning process began prior to Covid, we have continued to engage with the community through hands-on workshops, public meetings, stakeholder interviews, surveys, virtual open houses, and in-person Walk and Talks

We have found that there is a lot of commonality between the thousands of park users and residents who were involved during the planning process and new park users in terms of what they want to see at FDR Park. Both value opportunities to connect with nature while expressing a need for improved and expanded recreational amenities. With 348 acres, there’s plenty of space for everyone, and we look forward to welcoming even more new faces at FDR Park as we introduce new amenities and activities, such as a Welcome Center, an accessible playground, water access points, basketball courts, multi-purpose fields, a 5K loop trail, and much more. 

The plan’s public engagement process was accompanied by an equally robust study of the site’s hydrology. The FDR Park Plan is the first of its kind in Philadelphia that incorporates climate change projections. With increasing visitors and worsening frequent flooding, the need for a climate resilient FDR Park is more important than ever. Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Fairmount Park Conservancy continue to make informed decisions about best park uses driven by the scientific studies, ensuring that high-quality natural resources are preserved as much as possible while maintaining the balance of park needs and user demands.

HOW DOES THE PLAN ADDRESS FREQUENT FLOODING ISSUES IN THE PARK?
FDR Park suffers from frequent flooding, even after a mild rain, because of low-lying land. Without intervention, the park will revert to a tidal marsh in the hotter, wetter future Philadelphia faces. With the FDR Park Plan, this is the first time in Philadelphia that a park plan has incorporated climate change projections as well as resiliency, including a comprehensive hydrology study that informed the entire plan. The plan reimagines the park’s topography in two zones – nature at the center and activity around the edges, with plenty of space for everyone. 

The two zones are the Ecological Core and the Urban Edge. The Ecological Core will improve water flow and increase the park’s capacity to manage water, while providing native habitat for wildlife. Located in the heart of the park, the Ecological Core will make up 60% (209 acres) of the 348-acre park, including more natural meadows, wetlands, trails, and water access points. With the soil removed from the Ecological Core, the Urban Edge can be raised up out of the floodplain in key areas, allowing for investments that transform the perimeter of FDR Park, including an accessible playground, sports fields, and open lawn spaces.

WHAT NATURAL RESOURCES WILL BE PART OF THE ECOLOGICAL CORE?
The FDR Park Plan will increase access to nature and green space with the Ecological Core, and introduce sustainable natural lands to the park for the first time. The Ecological Core will encompass more than 50% of the 348-acre park and include more natural meadows, wetlands, trails, and water access points.

  • In partnership with the Philadelphia International Airport, 33 acres of the park’s southwest border are being transformed into a wetland system. The new wetlands will provide important wildlife habitat and deliver access to trails and nature.
  • The lakes will feature elevated boardwalks, a wooded picnic grove, and increased access points for fishing and paddling.
  • Restored and accessible riparian edges (shorelines) of the lakes.
  • The marsh area will provide park users with new water access to an expanded and restored Shedbrook Creek. 
  • The Wildflower Hill will rise 36 feet above FDR, offering great views of the city, the rivers, and beyond. The Hill will change with the seasons, offering sledding in the winter, panoramas of autumn color, and meadow wildflowers in the spring and summer.
  • The trail network will expand from 2.4 miles to 10.38 miles.

 

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHERE TO PUT THE WETLANDS IN THE PARK?
The airport’s initial hydrology study looked at the entire 348-acre landscape within the park boundary (including the area of the former golf course) and determined the most appropriate placement of a restored wetland – at the southwest border of the park. This is the first time in Philadelphia that a park plan has incorporated climate change projections as well as resiliency, including a comprehensive hydrology study that informed the entire plan. 

During the planning process, FPC was also able to use this data and perform hydrology models of each of the planning scenarios with support from the William Penn Foundation. 

The 33-acre site that has been selected for the airport wetland was the original, natural low point on this site. But in recent years, this 33-acre site has been filled in by disposed construction materials and debris, preventing the site from its natural drainage patterns. By transforming it into wetlands, the park will drain faster after a rain event and park-goers will have more access to nature and trails. Additionally, the soil removed to create the wetlands will be used to elevate other areas of the park up out of the floodplain, including the sports fields and Wildflower Hill.

WHAT DOES THE URBAN EDGE INCLUDE?
With the Ecological Core at the heart of the park improving water management and providing wildlife habitat, the Urban Edge can be elevated up out of the floodplain in key areas, allowing for investments that transform the perimeter of FDR Park. In the Urban Edge, athletic fields, basketball and tennis courts, and playgrounds are tied together by a 5K multi-use trail and frequent spots to picnic, purchase refreshments, and play.

  • A Gateway Plaza that will serve as a welcoming entrance for park users at the corner of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue.
  • The park’s first-ever Welcome Center with much-needed amenities, including public restrooms, concessions, equipment rentals, and a staffed information desk. 
  • A 15-acre Great Lawn on the east side of Meadow Lake
  • 8 acres of playspaces
  • 36 picnic tables & 12 pavilions
  • Franklin 5K loop trail
  • 12 multi-purpose fields
  • 6 baseball/softball fields
  • 10 tennis courts
  • 8 basketball courts

 

WHY ARE ATHLETIC FIELDS COMING TO FDR PARK? IS THERE ANOTHER MORE SUITABLE SITE IN THE CITY?
Fairmount Park Conservancy knows that playing fields are essential for the youth of our city, providing mental and physical health benefits. The need for more sports fields in South Philadelphia is critical to serve the growing number of local youth sports leagues, as youth and anti-violence advocates have expressed.

Currently, there is a lack of high-quality (or even playable by regulation standards) athletic fields across the city, and in South Philadelphia particularly. It is not uncommon to hear of youth sports teams forfeiting games or having to raise money to cross city lines and use fields in the suburbs due to a lack of access here in the city. 

The FDR Park Plan will deliver the high-quality field capacity our youth need by adding 12 multi-purpose athletic fields interspersed in a natural green setting, baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts, an inclusive and accessible playground, picnic lawns, and more. The new fields take up less than 8% of the park and will be supported by new amenities such as restrooms, concession stands, and storage facilities. 

The operational revenue from the multi-purpose fields will also support ongoing maintenance, staffing, and upkeep for FDR Park in the long-term.

WHY 12 MULTI-PURPOSE FIELDS?
Initial goals called for 19 multi-purpose fields. We came up with a compromise. The 12 athletic fields became a reasonable balance for FDR Park between activity, water and nature, while still increasing much-needed access to high-quality fields. In addition, operational revenue from the fields will support ongoing maintenance, staffing, and upkeep for FDR Park in the long-term.  

WILL THE FIELDS BE AVAILABLE FOR PUBLIC USE? HOW WILL FUNDS FROM THE FIELDS BE USED TO SUPPORT FDR PARK?
Yes, the fields will be open for public use and have a clear permitting system. Knowing the lack of access that youth sports teams currently face, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation will prioritize youth access to the sports fields and continue the practice of waiving permit fees for youth sports.  

To ensure community access to the fields, Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation will continue to work with the Friends of FDR Park, other long-time stakeholders in the park (such as youth sports teams who have been playing there) as well as elected officials who represent the park and its users, to ensure equitable community access to the fields.

WILL THE NEW MULTI-PURPOSE FIELDS BE NATURAL GRASS OR SYNTHETIC?
The new multi-purpose fields will be synthetic. It is important to note that modern synthetic fields use natural materials for the infill, such as walnut shells, sand, wood particle, coconut fibers, cork, etc., unlike infill in older incarnations of synthetic fields.  During the planning process, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and Fairmount Park Conservancy extensively weighed the pros and cons of both artificial and natural surfaces for the playing fields. 

For one synthetic field, it would require three natural grass fields to provide the same amount of playing time. Natural grass fields need to rest after each use and require even more down time to drain before and after rain. Furthermore, in order to maintain grass fields, maintenance, lawn mowers and their emissions, irrigation, fertilizer, and herbicides aren’t without significant costs and consequences.

Fairmount Park Conservancy engaged in extensive community engagement not only during the planning period for FDR Park, but also for our previous project in Hunting Park in 2013. Overwhelmingly, the sports community expressed a need for synthetic fields in order to maximize playability for youth athletes in the neighborhood. 

WHAT DOES THE 2026 WORLD CUP MEAN FOR FDR PARK?
There is NO stadium coming to FDR Park. The official World Cup matches will take place in Lincoln Financial Field. Several options are currently being considered to use as a temporary training site for a 2 – 8 week period during the 2026 World Cup, including 2 of the 12 multi-purpose fields planned for FDR Park. In return, Philadelphians get financial support to build these much-needed, already-planned fields that directly benefit generations of kids in our City. Whether or not FDR Park is selected as a temporary training site will not impact the Plan and amenities promised, including the construction of these fields. However it is our hope that in being selected we’ll gain funding momentum, working with Philadelphia Soccer 2026, and help propel more pieces of the project forward.

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE FDR SKATEPARK?
The FDR Skatepark will remain as is.

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE GOLF COURSE?
The FDR Golf Course permanently closed operations on October 31, 2019. The decision to close the course was made by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation because it was no longer sustainable due to frequent flooding and unprofitable operations.

As a result of the pandemic, FDR Park visitation surged to unprecedented levels. Philadelphia Parks & Recreation responded to the need for more outdoor space by temporarily opening up the former golf course area of FDR for passive use in 2020. 

The former golf course’s 150 acres will be transformed into a series of wetlands, trails, expanded water features, a Wildflower Hill, as well as athletic fields and courts:  

  • In partnership with the Philadelphia International Airport, 33 acres of the park’s southwest border are being transformed into a wetland system. The new wetlands will provide important wildlife habitat and deliver access to trails and nature
  • The park will have 12 new multi-purpose fields and four new baseball/softball fields that are open for public use with a clear permitting system. The new multi-purpose fields take up about 8% of the park, and will be interspersed with natural wooded areas, trails, and creeks. 
  • Concessions, trails, and a second signature play space interspersed with the fields will ensure that multiple generations of park users can enjoy the spaces simultaneously
  • The Wildflower Hill will rise 36 feet above FDR, offering great views of the city, the rivers, and beyond. The Hill will change with the seasons, offering sledding in the winter, panoramas of autumn color, and meadow wildflowers in the spring and summer.
  • A marsh area that will provide park users with new water access to an expanded and restored Shedbrook Creek.

 


WILL THERE BE EFFORTS MADE TO PRESERVE THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN MARKET?
The FDR Park Plan ensures that there will be a physical space to accommodate the vendors’ markets moving forward. The City of Philadelphia’s current administration is committed to supporting the market through this process. In addition, Fairmount Park Conservancy and the City have supported the vendors’ efforts to formalize and organize as they formed the Vendors Association of FDR Park.

In June of 2022, the Philadelphia Department of Commerce awarded the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia (CAGP) a $100,000 grant which will go toward establishing a permanent site for the Southeast Asian Market in FDR Park. 

As the Plan’s details are being finalized, a site for the market will be integrated into the implementation of the design.

WHY DOES THE PLAN CALL FOR MORE PARKING IN THE PARK?
With FDR Park being one of the most heavily used parks in Philadelphia, the plan strategically reconfigures the parking locations while increasing the amount of spaces from 900 to 1,700.  The plan calls to remove the large lots from the heart of the park (which will become the important Ecological Core) and relocate them into other pockets throughout the park, including the western portion, an underutilized area under I-95, and new lots at the perimeter of the park. This will provide users direct access to specific amenities throughout the park. Maximizing the area under I-95 for peak parking also gives the city the option for a continued revenue stream during major stadium events without disrupting normal park use. 

In addition to parking, the plan proposes repaved roads, three new dedicated pedestrian and bicycle entrances and a new 5k multi-use path to separate vehicles from cyclists. In learning that park road repairs were a high priority for the community during the planning process for FDR Park, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation repaved the roads and installed a new bike lane in 2020.

HOW MUCH WILL IMPLEMENTING THE PLAN COST?
The capital cost of implementing the Plan for FDR Park is projected to be upwards of $250 million. Just as the cost of developing the plan was covered by a mix of public and private funds, implementing the plan will require public-private partnerships. Fairmount Park Conservancy expects to assemble funding from local, state, and federal agencies with additional investment from philanthropic and corporate partners. The goal of this investment is to create a self-sustaining public space that is owned and managed by the city and generates revenue from on-site concessions and events to operate and maintain the park.

HOW DOES THE CITY PLAN TO FUND SUSTAINED MAINTENANCE OF THE PARK OVERTIME AND ENSURE THAT ALL THE NEW WORK IS NOT DONE IN VAIN?
In terms of sustaining the maintenance of FDR Park over time, that work comes down to ensuring a set of reliable funding streams are flowing into the park, including from the private and public sector.

Throughout the planning process, the community very clearly prioritized a clean, safe, and well-cared for park. In order for FDR Park to deliver on its promises of social, economic, and environmental benefits for residents, the site will require a higher level of service than it currently experiences. FDR Park is a 348-acre site with a complex portfolio of amenities that require much more than the “trash, mow, and blow” practices commonly found in municipal parks. The athletic fields, wetlands, historic building, and horticultural plantings will all require specialized care. 

Achieving the level of service across an expanded scope of offerings will require new sources and new partnerships to offset costs of maintenance and operations. 

A sustainable operating strategy requires that targets for an endowment are integrated into the initial capital campaign and sponsorship strategy. In addition, supplementing the park’s revenue to cover unexpected costs or capital replacement with an endowment should be used to support the programs that may not generate revenue but provide benefits to the community and to sustain the natural resources for generations to come.

WHAT IS THE TIMELINE FOR IMPLEMENTING THE PLAN?
After three years of planning, construction began on the Gateway Phase in 2022. For ongoing updates, visit our blog. The plan will take decades to complete. 

WHO CAN I CONTACT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PLAN?
Please contact info@myphillypark.org with any questions or feedback about the plan.

Learn more about the FDR Park Plan