Community Spotlights

Why we love Royal Gardens, a quiet oasis in Morris Park

by Melissa Romero on May 9, 2018

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 Royal Gardens in Morris Park and park champions Royal Gardens Association!

Nicole Chandler-Harper was tired of the view from her front porch in the Overbrook neighborhood. Although she lived across the street from Morris Park, a 117-acre park in West Philadelphia, the lot had gone untended for years, resulting in an overgrown field prone to littering.

“I really just wanted some beautification across from my home,” recalls Chandler-Harper.

It wasn’t long before Chandler-Harper found herself adopting the plot of land across the street from her home, creating a non-profit called Royal Gardens Association.

Nicole Chandler-Harper adopted a section of Morris Park in 2005 and turned it into Royal Gardens.

That was 13 years ago. Today, Royal Gardens is a lush, meditative retreat within the large park, filled with flower beds, various types of mature trees, and a vegetable garden. Chandler-Harper, Yaharne Harper, John H. Brown, and Daniel Ritz are regular stewards of the gardens and members of Royal Gardens Association.

Through Chandler-Harper and the Park Friends Group’s long-time stewardship of the gardens, Royal Gardens has made impressive strides. Along with planting the flowers beds and vegetable garden, the Royal Gardens Association have a long list of accomplishments, from receiving a grant to bring a stormwater management site in the park to becoming a Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful affiliate.

Royal Gardens Association is no stranger to Love Your Park Week, either. Each year the Friends Group participates in the citywide service days.

The flower bed that volunteers will help mulch, weed, and plant on the May 12th Love Your Park service day.

“That’s my little baby,” says Chandler-Harper, pointing to one of the newer flower beds by the baseball field. This flower bed, she explains, is the main project that volunteers will help maintain on May 12 during the citywide Love Your Park Week service day.

Chandler-Harper says over time she has learned that when it comes to volunteer days, sometimes less is more. Says Chandler-Harper, “When you don’t know how many volunteers may come, you set up a small project. That way, if you only get a handful of volunteers, you will still have that project completed in that day.”

“It’s a win-win,” says Chandler-Harper.

The time and effort that Royal Gardens Association has put into this small portion of the park shows every spring as the flowers bloom and vegetable garden sprouts. Chandler admits that it’s not always easy, but the new views from her front porch make all the hard work worth it.

“I came up with the name Royal Gardens because I wanted to leave a legacy,” says Chandler-Harper. “Now, we’re a non-profit–and all I wanted was some flowers across from my house!”

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!