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These volunteers are true park friends of Philly’s parks

by Melissa Romero on December 29, 2019

Philly’s parks are loved and cared for year-round by the largest network of park stewards and volunteers in the country. There are more than 130 Park Friends Groups in the Philadelphia Park Friends and Community Gardens Network, including hundreds of volunteers who work year-round to clean, green, and steward their neighborhood parks across Philly.

Philly’s parks would not be what it is today without this network of incredibly dedicated volunteers, who host cleanups, movie nights, yoga classes, and more fun and free events throughout the year. Each and every group deserves recognition for their tremendous stewardship. At the 2019 Party for Parks Holiday Party, Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation recognized select Friends Groups for their efforts over the past 12 months. Get to know the Park Friends Groups below, and if you’re inspired by their work, please consider joining your neighborhood park friends group in 2020!

Service Award

The Service Award goes to a Friends group or Friend that is committed to keeping their park clean, safe and ready to use through routine service and maintenance and strongly believe that through beautification and care, the parks remain welcoming places for all.

This year’s Service Award goes to: Robert Tobin of Dickinson Square Park. 

Robert Tobin has been a dedicated member of the Friends of Dickinson Square for over 13 years. He has served two terms as President and has coordinated many of their Love Your Park events. It is extraordinary that he has joined almost every single early morning Saturday clean up. And in addition to his service at clean ups and tree tending, Robert attends and helps out every park event, and is always supportive at meetings – and most importantly we heard that he supported Parks on Tap every single night!

Robert, thank you for your dedication to Dickinson Square for over a decade. Thank you for your lasting vision of a “clean, fresh park” and congratulations!

Events & Engagement Award

This year’s Events & Engagement award goes to a Friends group or Friend that seeks to activate their park space through programming, events and clean ups. These positive activities bring community together to celebrate and care for their beloved park. 

This year’s Events and Engagement Award goes to: Bardascino Park.

The Friends of Bardascino Park have been hosting popular family friendly events for many years.  Recently one of their Friends Group Members Cortes has World Cup Soccer Viewing Events at the park.  Alvaro Drake-Cortes better known as Cortes took his love for soccer and channeled it into organizing two unique and wildly successful “World Cup Soccer Viewing” Events at Bardascino Park–the Men’s World Cup in 2018 and the Women’s World Cup in 2019. He decorated the exterior of the park with a string of national flags and dangling soccer balls, set up a photo booth and solicited food donations for a buffet spread. Word spread through social media and soccer fans from all nationalities all over the city flocked to the park. As the games were played each weekend, the park was filled with the exuberance of dedicated soccer fans as well as passersby who couldn’t help but be drawn in by the spirit of fun and camaraderie. 

Read more about the Friends of Bardascino Park and their popular World Cup parties in the park.

Legacy Award 

The Legacy Award goes to a Park Friend who has been engaged in the Park Friends Network for many years and has demonstrated leadership as well as a deep sense of commitment to their park and community. Their love for parks has inspired future generations of park stewards.

This year’s Legacy Award is presented to: Fred Lewis, a long-time friend of both Cliveden Park and Vernon Park.

In the words of Mary Ann Lancaster Tyler who nominated Fred, “Fred Lewis is outstanding & a most valuable Friend. In his 92 years of life, Fred has served in several capacities: Friends of Cliveden Park Treasurer & Vice-President; Board member of Vernon Park ; Liaison to Philadelphia’s Water Department; Advocate to our city’s Water Shed Program; diligent in his work with the Center in the Park. Fred Lewis’s outreach and devotion is precious to all that we work to accomplish.”

Fred and his dear wife Carrie who passed last year are true examples of heartfelt service. Fred’s wisdom, kindness and generosity are known to all who have had the privilege to work alongside him. Fred thank you for your service and for inspiring us all!  

Environment Award

The environment award goes to a Friend or Friends Group who is committed to promoting, educating on, protecting and improving the ecosystems within our parks.

This year’s Environment Award is presented to: Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve.

The Friends of Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve are receiving this award for their tireless efforts to protect, restore and enhance the ecological health of the Upper Roxborough Reservoir. Over the past decade, the Friends have lead dozens of volunteer days focused on removing invasive plants, planted hundreds of native trees and shrubs and lead walks promoting the history and ecology of this site. Through their advocacy, collaboration, coordination and sweat equity, the Friends have transformed this site into a centerpiece of the upper Roxborough community and heaven for the flora and fauna of the region.

Read more about the Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve and how they work with parks all over Northwest Philadelphia to host regular cleanups.

The Community Garden Award

The Community Garden Award goes to a community garden that goes above and beyond to ensure their garden is an active buzzing green space. These gardens serve as oases for community to gather to grow food, share knowledge and celebrate traditions.

This year’s award is presented to: Brewerytown Community Garden. 

Brewerytown Gardeners describe their garden as “an active gathering space where members grow food for themselves and their neighbors, learn new skills and enjoy music and other festivities.” There are 78 members at the Brewerytown Garden who are growing food for their families & friends and for their neighborhood through their weekly farm-stand.

This year Brewerytown Garden hosted over ten community events! Including a seed swap, a pest management workshop, a community BBQ on Community Gardens Day, a jazz concert series, a movie night and hosted clean-up days like Love Your Park Spring! 

Brewerytown Garden  also are part of the NEW city-wide Community Compost Network that was launched just this year. 

Thank you to the  Brewerytown Gardeners for all their hard work growing food together and creating a well loved gathering space for their community!

The MVPF Award

The Most Valuable Park Friend Award is granted to an outstanding member of our Park Friends Network who has demonstrated notable enthusiasm and service to our shared vision of fostering vibrant, inviting, and active park spaces.

This year’s award is presented to: Cheri Harrison at Carroll Park! 

Cheri is passionate, creative, and determined when it comes to her dream of making Carroll Park one of the best loved, most vibrant places in the city. As her nominator says, “She has demonstrated extraordinary enthusiasm and commitment in maintaining a safe, active park for the community.  Cheri is very committed to the Friends group and always brings good ideas and vision of what we want the park to become.”

Read more about Cheri and the Friends of Carroll Park on the blog.

Seasonal Maintenance Attendant (SMA) Award

The Seasonal Maintenance Attendant Award goes to an SMA who regularly goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure their park is well cared for.

So this year we had so many persuasive nominations for many talented hardworking SMA’s that our team was not able to just pick one so we want to invite all of the SMA’s who have come out tonight to come on up! Please Give them a big round of applause for they all have truly gone above and beyond.