Karen Harris, a life-long South Philly resident, has fond memories of FDR Park. “All my life I’ve been coming here,” Harris says. “When I was little in the sixties, my stepdad used to make sandwiches and bring us here after school to do our homework, have picnics, and go swimming at the pool.”
FDR Park is different than it was back then – the swimming pool has been closed since the late 1980s – but that hasn’t stopped Harris from regularly visiting the South Philly oasis.
And there’s a good chance you’ll spot Harris in FDR Park even more in the coming months. Karen is one of five FDR Park Planning Ambassadors who are spending time in the 350-acre park this summer and fall to collect feedback from park users and share information about the FDR Park Plan, an ongoing planning process in partnership with Fairmount Park Conservancy, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Friends of FDR Park, and WRT Design.
Karen Harris has enjoyed FDR Park since she was a child. Photo by Melissa Romero.
Karen and fellow Planning Ambassadors Kristin Ricchiuti, Vina Sok, and Carolina Torres are South Philly residents, while coordinator Martha Howard has worked as an ambassador in the park for three years. All of them have an invested interest in the future of the park.
Carolina Torres hopes she and the other ambassadors can help spread the word about FDR Park to the many groups and communities who use it. “I think the biggest thing is that people don’t really know that much about FDR Park,” she says. “It’s a humongous space and it’s gorgeous, but it’s kind of undervalued.”
“I know for Latinos, they love to be outside and be with their families, so going to the park is a big family event,” Torres continues. “Whatever we can do to make this park committed to their vision will be super important.”
Carolina Torres says it’s important to engage with the many groups and communities who use FDR Park.
While the FDR Park Plan aims to address the future of the South Philly oasis, present-day issues are also important to consider, says Kristin Ricchiuti, who lives just a couple of blocks away in the Packer Park neighborhood.
Basic maintenance is a common request, for example. “People have such nostalgic roots to the park, including myself. But the main thing they want is to just make it better,” she says. “When I say ‘better,’ I mean immediate issues like safety, keeping it clean and the grass cut, and curbs paved – basic maintenance.”
The ambassadors will be at FDR Park now through the fall, as well as at the upcoming community meetings and events. If you see them around, say hello, and be sure to stop by the park planning booth between the playground and the Omsted Pavilion to learn more about the Park Plan and to fill out a park-user survey.
Visit the Park Planning Booth in FDR Park to learn more about the FDR Park Plan.
If you’re interested in getting involved, please join the Friends of FDR Park at their annual meeting on Tuesday, September 18 at 6:00pm at Calvary Temple. And save the date for the second community meeting for the FDR Park Plan on Thursday, November 14, 6-8pm Location TBD and more details to come!
For information about the FDR Park Plan and to sign up for updates, visit our Capital Projects page.