Exciting News!

What’s happening in FDR Park in 2021: A Recap…

by Sara Hirschler on May 25, 2021

On April 7th, 385 people joined us on Zoom for our Virtual Open House to find out what’s happening in FDR Park in 2021.

Participants heard updates, from:
Maura McCarthy, Executive Director of Fairmount Park Conservancy
State Senator Nikil Saval, PA Senate, District 1
State Representative Regina G. Young, PA House, District 185
Kathryn Ott Lovell, Commissioner of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
Allison Schapker, Chief Projects Officer of Fairmount Park Conservancy
Ray Scheinfeld, Philadelphia International Airport
Sam Lemeheny, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
Justin DiBerardinis, Park Director of FDR Park

If you missed the open house, you can view the recording here: 

You can view the slideshow presentation that was shared here.

You can learn more about the FDR Park Master Plan here.

Below you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions about FDR Park including links to resources that we shared during the open house:

How can I apply for a picnic permit in FDR Park? You can apply for a permit through Philadelphia Parks & Recreation:  Get a picnic permit | Service | City of Philadelphia

Have you considered a splash pad or spray park area for the playground? That is under consideration as we begin the community engagement process for the new playground coming to FDR Park. Be sure to sign up for our emails to learn about the latest updates. 

Will the park still be closed during Eagles games? FDR Park is never closed during sporting events, but vehicular traffic needs to be managed because the park has a limited capacity for vehicles. Eagles games draw a huge number of people to this part of the city on a handful of Sundays a year. During Eagles games, there is a $40 fee for vehicles parking in FDR Park. Those on foot, accessing via public transportation, rideshare or by bike do not need to pay to enter the park. This parking revenue is one of the major sources of revenue for FDR Park – dollars exclusively dedicated to the park’s maintenance. 

What are the plans for the meadows? As a result of the pandemic, FDR Park visitation surged to unprecedented levels. Parks & Recreation responded to the need for more space to socially distance by temporarily opening up the western side of FDR for passive use. This has included short-term light maintenance of the marshland, which faces increasingly frequent flooding. 

We are glad the temporary activation of the western half of the park has offered residents a taste of the more permanent and extensive natural spaces and trail network to come.  Those enjoying the western part of the park today will be glad to learn that the Master Plan will expand FDR’s meadowland by 36% from its previous state. We will triple the current trail network in the park, and introduce sustainable natural lands to park for the first time. 

While the Wetland project will bring construction to the meadow area, access to meadow trails will remain open as much as possible. We are also committed to providing over a mile of new and improved trail ways and to making sure we still have access to all of the acres that are undisturbed. This is a theme for the entire park; we are committed to keeping the park open for business. 

Is anything being done to prevent ATV riders in FDR Park? ATVs are a system-wide, city-wide challenge at many parks and spaces. Philadelphia Parks & Recreation is in coordination with the Philadelphia Police Department to address illegal ATV use in our parks. We will take this issue into consideration in the redesign of the park, as well. 

Are there plans for any permanent separate pickle ball courts? There are no current plans for permanent pickleball courts. We are evaluating possible temporary pickleball courts for this summer (on the back courts). There will be a pickleball tournament at FDR this August using temporary taped court lines.

How will the implementation of the new master plan impact existing public performance spaces within the park? For example will the Boathouse and/or other locations remain available for use by local arts organizations? The master plan keeps the boathouse and gazebo as spaces for community programming. 

Will there be efforts made to preserve the community use of the Park? In particular, the Cambodian Community who has a weekend market? The partners working on the FDR Park Master Plan are absolutely committed to preserving community use of the park. In terms of the weekend Cambodian Community market, we are working hand-in-hand with them to ensure that the market continues to thrive. 

Will there be a dog park or a dog leash stipulation? Off-leash pets are prohibited in all parks. Rules and regulations | Philadelphia Parks & Recreation | City of Philadelphia

Will the historic buildings and structures be repaired? When? Absolutely. The historic buildings and structures at FDR are essential to its character and we want to find ways to welcome folks back to these sights and care for these historic assets. It’s special to Philadelphia and it’s important to the Conservancy that we are good stewards of these historic assets. 

The first example of such work will be the conversion of a historic stable and guardhouse into a public-facing Welcome Center that will improve the visitor experience and provide a space for large events, which will generate revenue for park operations. 

During peak season, will there be car-free days? We tried out car free park days in 2020 because of increased usage during the pandemic, allowing staff and visitors to experience what a car-free park looks like. Select weekend road closures are part of our on-going planning.

Have the plans for FDR Park been approved by the Historic Commission? As stewards of historic properties throughout the City and with our own team of architectural conservators on staff, one of the things that was most exciting to us about FDR Park is its rich history! Almost everywhere the Conservancy works is listed on the Philadelphia Register or the National Register of Historic Places. 

If there has been one consistent thing about FDR Park, it’s change.  As the planning process has suggested changes to the park, one of the goals is to restore the historic vision and function of the Olmsted Brothers as much as possible on the historic eastern half of the Park, while finding new uses for the undeveloped western half. The plan reinvests in historic structures like the stable–now being repurposed as the Welcome Center–in order to restore them and return them to public use. 

Every capital project built on park land is subject to a process that includes review by the Art Commission and the Historic Commission. Just as we look forward to continuing the community engagement process as these projects move into design, we are looking forward to engaging with all of the regulatory bodies that inform our work.

Will anything be done to curb smoking in FDR Park? Smoking or vaping are prohibited in all parks. Rules and regulations | Philadelphia Parks & Recreation | City of Philadelphia. We will also consider additional signage and enforcement efforts. 

Can disc golf be considered? Not at this time, but we are glad to highlight that there are other sites in Philadelphia’s parks, such as Sedgley Woods Disc Golf in East Fairmount Park.

Will you be creating a soccer field? The master plan includes the creation of 12 multipurpose athletic fields that can be used for sports including soccer, lacrosse, and football. 

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? We need parks and public spaces more than ever and yet the Parks + Recreation budget was cut 20% last fiscal year. How will we make sure all these amazing new/redeveloped spaces are equitably managed over time? 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. We need to encourage and advocate for our elected officials to fund the maintenance that is needed. To learn more about advocating for Philadelphia Parks & Recreation’s budget, click here

Any thoughts on bringing the golf course back? FDR Golf Course permanently closed operations on October 31, 2019.. Golfers may use the City’s other public golf courses: Karakung, Walnut Lane, John Byrne and Juniata.

Will there be environmental educational opportunities for various communities to learn more about FDR’s history and these amazing ecological and natural wildlife features that they may not know about? Possibly on-going curriculum for children and families and local schools and nonprofit org children & youth programs? Absolutely. The Conservancy is working closely with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Friends of FDR Park to develop community programming around this incredible park’s history and natural areas. Events such as bird walks and community walking group We Walk PHL are already underway, with more opportunities to explore the park to come, including a free digital scavenger hunt that will encourage users to discover lesser-known parts and the history of this storied park. Be sure to follow the Conservancy at @myphillypark and Friends of FDR Park at @FDRPark to stay up to date on events.

What is the time frame for the basketball courts and the new playground to be completed? The Playground adjacent to Pattison Lagoon and the Welcome Center is already in design. We anticipate opportunities for community engagement and feedback during the summer of 2021. Completion and construction timelines will be shared as funds are raised and the project progresses. The basketball courts will be located adjacent to Pattison Avenue. This part of the project is expected to begin when the airport wetland project is complete  and funding is secured to begin construction on new basketball, tennis, baseball and fields.

Will public art reflect the diverse community of South Philadelphia (or the City overall)? We believe that the authenticity and diversity of FDR Park is part of what makes it so special. Philadelphia is home to an unparalleled collection of public art, believed to be the oldest and largest in the United States. Our extraordinary collection reflects Philadelphia’s rich history and diverse array of communities and is the result of Philadelphia’s long-standing commitment to the arts. Public art – located in every neighborhood of our city – is a reflection of the many vibrant communities and cultures that shape Philadelphia. It helps to define our city’s identity, and it is one of our greatest assets. Public art on site will be managed through the city’s very famous and respected Percent for Art Program within the City’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE). 

Suggestion: I hope you can convince septa to indicate FDR on their subway maps and directional/station signs at the AT&T station. Great idea!


RESOURCES


Keep in touch with Fairmount Park Conservancy by subscribing to our emails and through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. For any questions beyond what was addressed in this post, please feel free to reach out to info@myphillypark.org.

If Philadelphia’s parks make a difference in your life – consider becoming a member of Fairmount Park Conservancy and help ensure that Philadelphia’s parks are enhanced for generations to come. PLUS members can enjoy FREE year round events like guided hikes, trail runs, yoga classes, and bike rides and discounts on other park experiences.