In honor of the upcoming Love Your Park Week (May 12-20, 2018), we’ll be highlighting some of Philly’s amazing parks and Park Friends Groups who work hard to keep their neighborhood’s public spaces clean, green, and beautiful. This week, get to know Kemble Park and the Friends of Kemble Park!
It’s a sunny, spring day when a group of neighbors gather at Kemble Park to consider the future of their beloved park on a hill.
Kemble Park is an 8-acre park located along Ogontz and Olney avenues in Lower West Oak Lane. The park was named after 19th-century actress and writer Fanny Kemble, who is celebrated for her work as an abolitionist while living across the street from the park.
“There are people who don’t understand what it meant to live this close to a beautiful park,” says Sandra Broadus, who grew up playing in Kemble Park. “Now that we have decided to register again as Friends of Kemble Park, we’re trying to replicate the massive job that was being done by very few in the past.”
The group of committed volunteers who recently re-established the Friends of Kemble Park is working to engage the next generation. They are picking up the torch from the community park stewards that have maintained the park for so many years. This is their first year participating in Love Your Park Week.
“[Love Your Park Week] is going to be an opportunity to get some folks out and reintroduce them to the history of Kemble Park,” says Broadus. “As a newly established Park Friends Group, we want to send the message that the community cares and is still involved in preserving and protecting this treasured park space.”
Seated left to right: Gertrude Showell, Carl Watson, Margo Walden. Rear left to right: Sheena Fortune, Elaine Regan, Sandra Broadus, Leni Johnson, Brenda Aldridge
Although it may be the new Friends of Kemble Park’s first year as a member of the Park Friends Network, community elders have been champions of Kemble Park for decades. Kemble Park was one of the first parks to participate in the early years of the Conservancy’s “Growing the Neighborhood” initiative with NovaCare and ACE (now CHUBB).
Over its long history, neighbors coordinated with Elizabeth Rice and the late Louis Broadus to make many improvements to the park, from daily trash removal and cultivating an on-site community garden. Recent stewardship through A Concerned Community Association (ACCA) involved residents working with the Philadelphia Water Department to help design the beautifully landscaped rain garden on the site.
Carl Watson, for example, says he’s been coming to the park for at least 40 years. “It was a lot different than what it is now,” recalls Watson. “But it’s a park well worth saving.”
Same goes for Gertrude Showell, who says she specifically put down roots in the neighborhood because of Kemble Park. “I bought my house because of the park,” she says. “The park really brings the neighborhood up.”
The positive effect of their ongoing work to beautify the park and keep it clean and green can be seen in the many families, residents, and organizations that hold picnics in there.
The long-time park champions are now looking to hand the baton to a younger generation of volunteers willing to care for the park now and in the future.
That’s why Elaine Regan, Leni Johnson, and other long-time residents of the neighborhood decided to re-establish Friends of Kemble Park this year and participate in Love Your Park Week. Says Broadus, “We really want to demonstrate the community pride that is truly burning in the hearts of our local residents.”
At their first Love Your Park Service Day on May 12, they plan to replant flowers in the neglected community garden at 17th & Chew Avenue and beautify the corner of 16th & Chew Avenue with shrubs and flowers.
Says neighbor Sheena Fortune, “I want to make sure that we love on our park and keep our community together so we can enjoy it for generations to come. Especially so I can bring my grandkids here one day to be a part of the celebrations.”
Volunteer registration for Love Your Park Week is now open! Click here to sign up and learn about the more than 50 free events taking place in Philly’s parks all week.
Thanks to the Knight Foundation and Chubb Charitable Foundation for making Love Your Park Week possible, and to Bank of America, TD Bank, BlackRock, and PECO for their support!