Every year the Park Friends Network knows it’s fall when our annual bus tour comes along in late September. This year the Park Stewardship team realized they would need to shift gears in order to keep everyone safe. As a result came an alternative in the form of Park Field Trips. On Saturday, September 26th, small groups met simultaneously in different parks across Philadelphia to learn about that site’s Park Friends group and the work they do to steward their park. Participating parks included Bridesburg Riverfront Park, Carroll Park, FDR Park, and Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve. Read on for highlights from each field trip!
Bridesburg Riverfront Park
Bridesburg Riverfront Park is a planned 10-acre park on the Delaware riverfront in Northeast Philadelphia. Riverfront North Partnership, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s non-profit partner in the area, is working to help organize a Friends group for the park and has already garnered support! This formerly heavy industrial area will be transformed into a beautiful greenspace for the community.
“Our friends at Riverfront North hosted a wonderful visit to their ‘soon-to-be’ park along the Delaware River. We were joined by the community advisory committee who has been helping to get the word out about the new park and advise on design and programming. Phase One of the ten acre Bridesburg Park will hopefully begin construction in early 2021 with completion in 2022. Phase One includes landscaping, pathways, entranceways and a restroom facility with an anticipated cost of $4.6 million. The park field trip gave the group the chance to talk through some challenges – the beautiful new park will connect to the trail system but is tucked away from the neighborhood behind an industrial landscape. Programming and communication engagement strategies will be key to ensure neighbors use, love and steward their new park. There were two pretty cool features of the ‘behind the fence’ tour. The site was a former concrete factory which dumped concrete waste directly into the river. This buildup looks like a lava flow of concrete. Riverfront North will be letting this lava remain so that visitors are reminded of the industrial history. My favorite part of the park is going up a small hill to an unexpected beautiful meadow. It is a sign of how resilient nature is, even in the toughest of landscapes. This meadow will remain as part of the new park, with pathways for wandering through. Special thanks to Liz Daily from the Friends of Gold Star Park for sharing her experience as a park friend, programming ideas, inspiration and good humor with the team from Bridesburg.”
–Jennifer Mahar, Senior Director of Civic Initiatives at Fairmount Park Conservancy
“Riverfront North Partnership is so appreciative of the future Bridesburg Riverfront Park being a part of this year’s Park Friend Field Trip. Although we are not a park (yet) or have an official group (yet), our staff and volunteers learn so much by sharing our story while building connections to some great Park Friends. The Park Friends Network is an invaluable program supporting Philadelphia Parks.”
–Gina Craigo, Community Engagement Manager at Riverfront North Partnership
Carroll Park is a tree-filled five-acre park that occupies one square block in the neighborhood of the same name. The Friends of Carroll Park started meeting in July 2018, learning what it takes to join the Park Friends Network (PFN) and become stewards of their communities’ public spaces.
This Friends group is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when a community works together and is open to learning from fellow Friends groups. During the field trip, the Friends of Carroll Park talked about how they are adapting their programming and working to make the park safe for all to enjoy during COVID times. Some of these things include communicating the importance of taking part in the census, sharing information on how to register to vote, holding socially distanced exercise sessions in the park, and participating in Love Your Park cleanup days. This group certainly demonstrated how their work expands to the rest of their community.
With its beautiful natural resources including meadows and lakes, FDR Park has served as the ideal retreat for park lovers from South Philly and beyond. From fishing to skateboarding, boating to baseball, this park has it all.
Although rainy, this group of Friends had a lovely walk through FDR Park during their field trip. The tour started at the iconic boathouse opposite the Swedish American Museum, giving participants the opportunity to take in the scope of the park. From here they ventured across the park to what used to be the golf course and has now been designated the South Philly Woodlands, a lush wooded area with large meadowland for the grass to grow wild. Most of the participants had never been to this side of the park and it was a welcome surprise. They noted the serene nature of the space and how easy it was to step away from the city and enter a green oasis.
Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve
Nestled in Northwest Philadelphia, the Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve serves as an urban wooded oasis. This green space is certainly a bird watcher’s paradise. The Friends of the Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve are so passionate about the parkland in their neighborhood that they have created The Roxborough/Manayunk Conservancy to dedicate themselves to the preservation of the historic and open space assets in the Roxborough/Manayunk area.
Everyone had a great time on this field trip. The Friends bought coffee and doughnuts for people to enjoy while we gathered. They gave a great tour in which they detailed the history of the site, the Friends involvement over the years, the projects they have accomplished and their long term goals. We walked the entire loop trail making several stops along the way to point out project locations, interesting vegetation, historical infrastructure and beautiful city views! The first tinges of fall color really set things off. I think everyone was very impressed with what the Friends have accomplished there and left with an appreciation of what a gem the Roxborough Reservoir Preserve is to have in our park system.
Special thanks to the Knight Foundation for their support of our Park Stewardship program and Park Friends Network.