We are thrilled to welcome Nicole Seahorn Hameen to our team at Fairmount Park Conservancy as the Community Program Coordinator! In her new role, Nicole will engage with communities throughout the city, shepherd the free walking group We Walk PHL, and support community programming in the East Parkside neighborhood. Despite just joining the Conservancy staff, Nicole is no stranger to Philly parks! Learn more about Nicole in the Q&A below.
Why do parks matter to you?
When I think of the parks I’ve traversed over the last few years, the healing benefits of nature I hadn’t embraced as an adult immediately come to mind. As a child living in Pittsburgh, I played in the woods, climbed trees, played in the grass, dirt, mud and leaves where I found unbounded joy and curiosity. I have rediscovered this enjoyment as I have gotten older. Being in parks came naturally after some introspection about what I needed to improve my quality of life, health and community. I have a deep appreciation for Philly’s natural lands, trails, parks, and playgrounds. I’m a witness to the benefits of walking and recreation in nature for myself and others. No matter how anyone is getting movement in their day, I highly recommend taking time to appreciate the natural beauty around us. Nature provides health and healing to all in many ways.
We must stay connected to nature, learn from and take care of it individually and collectively. It is directly tied into our quality of daily life. 2020 changed perspectives opening hearts and minds about how much green public park space is needed, utilized, and valued. Public park spaces have seen record usage and record care is needed. My family and I joined the Love Your Park Solo initiative last year, using tools provided by Fairmount Park Conservancy, to assist in individual and small socially distant group clean ups. A little goes a long way when communities work together to keep neighborhood parks up.
I go to parks to clear my head, tap into my creativity, to breathe, relax and meditate, play with my children, watch the birds and squirrels, smell the magnolias in early spring, touch and hug trees, learn and identify plant life, walk, exercise, and participate in activities and programs. Each season reveals its own sacred beauty, secrets and history of nature, healing self-discovery and curiosity that I tap into intentionally. There is so much to learn and experience.
“Nature provides health and healing to all in many ways.”
What compelled you to join Fairmount Park Conservancy as Community Program Coordinator?
Over the years, I have developed a great appreciation for land health, community health and engagement, and organizations that care for, share, and implement these initiatives. Fairmount Park Conservancy is one of those organizations. I first heard about WeWalkPHL through another non-profit organization dear to my heart called GirlTrek. When I learned more about the walks in parks and on wooded trails, I was overjoyed at the opportunity to participate. I knew there would be walk leaders to greet me. I would not be alone or left behind no matter my speed or ability at that time – that gave me confidence to venture out and explore. My very first walk as a WeWalkPHL participant was at FDR Park, a public space I had never experienced even though I’d driven past it for years. I was in awe of the beauty and wildlife that live and migrate there. After that, I was interested in every walk in the city and other parks and programs I hadn’t been exposed to or never pulled the car over to investigate. I went in search of them.
I signed up to become a dedicated walk leader and then became program coordinator as an outside consultant. I helped support the walk leaders and assist in the expansion of the WeWalkPHL program from 3 to 5 and now 10 park walk sites and growing. I love this program because it opened up a freedom to explore Philly’s scenic spaces that I previously hadn’t known about. I became engaged in programs and other volunteer opportunities that Fairmount Park Conservancy continues to offer, support and engage community members. I am pleased and honored to continue community health and healing work in this capacity as Community Program Coordinator of Fairmount Park Conservancy.
Why are parks important to communities?
Parks are vital to communities, both the built environment and natural resources. Each provides cooling shade, lowers toxic emissions, provides oxygen, and natural aesthetics. Parks are places to enjoy solitude or gather collectively for recreation and sports. Everyone can go there to exercise, relax and enhance overall wellbeing for free. All communities need access to green spaces within walking distance of dwellings.
Nicole (third from left) at a Parkside Fresh Food Fest event in 2019.
What is your favorite park in Philly?
Although I love taking walks and hikes on different trails throughout Philadelphia, my heart is with West Fairmount Park. It’s vast with all kinds of trails I have still yet to hike, old lush tall trees and historic aesthetics. The Belmont Plateau continues to be a valued and well-utilized community gathering place. As a teen, West Fairmount Park was the place to be. When my family first moved to Philadelphia in 1990, we resided on 52nd St. between Master and Media streets for a few years, then moved to Germantown. I’ve lived and moved around the city throughout the years and West Fairmount Park has always been a staple for me and my family.
To learn more about WeWalkPHL and find a free walking group to join, click here.