In 2018, Fairmount Park Conservancy launched its first Volunteer Ambassador program, welcoming a great crew of passionate volunteers to help us spread the word about our work, events, and other happenings in Philadelphia’s parks. You might have met a few of them at the 23 Parks on Tap locations over the spring and summer, West Park Arts Fest in June, or the Boxers’ Trail 5K in September.
Fairmount resident Ken Flagg became the first Volunteer Ambassador to complete the program–he’s now a full-time member of the Conservancy (one of the many perks to being a Volunteer Ambassador!). He took some time to share some of his favorite moments and learning lessons from his experience.
1. What is your favorite park in Philadelphia and why?
That’s a really hard question! Philadelphia has an amazing park system with lots of jewels like the urban oasis of the Wissahickon and the perpetually expanding Schuylkill River Trail. If I had to choose one, though, I’d pick Glendinning Rock Garden. It really is a hidden gem – most people don’t even know it is there. It is peaceful, great for picnics, has a rich tradition of alternative events and presents an unmatched view of the Girard Avenue bridge at sundown. If that weren’t enough, there’s a waterfall, fish and some great trails through the woods, one of which ends with a surprisingly great view of the rail bridge.
2. Why did you decide to become a Volunteer Ambassador for Fairmount Park Conservancy?
I’ve been itching over the past couple of years to start giving back to the community. When my wife and I decided to move to Fairmount, proximity to the park was one of the major factors, and getting involved with the parks system seemed like a great way to help out. I started scouring the web for opportunities and came across the Fairmount Parks Conservancy website which had the call for volunteers. I sent Sara Hirschler an email asking how I could be of service and the rest is history.
3. What were some of the highlights of your volunteer experience?
Being a Volunteer Ambassador is a very social endeavor, so I got to meet a lot of interesting individuals, a number of whom had interesting stories to tell. It turns out that people will tell you all about their life if you are willing to listen! Spending time in the entry booth with the Conservancy, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and FCM employees was also fun. The real joy, though, was informing people, whether it was around basic information like where Parks on Tap was going to be the following week or more specific requests like how to advocate for a future Parks on Tap location. My favorite moment of all was during a shift at Lemon Hill when one patron came through with the tiniest, cutest dog I’ve ever seen. It was so small and fluffy! I couldn’t even.
4. What are some lessons or new things you learned about Philadelphia’s parks and/or neighborhoods?
The Parks On Tap setup has a way of activating a space that made me see the various parks in completely new ways. I had been to Glendinning before, for example, but it didn’t really click for me how amazing the space was until I was watching the space get utilized by people. Because of that experience I’ve been back to Glendinning several times and have seen how what I previously thought was an unused park is actually used all of the time by people for everything from birthday parties to drum circles. It was similar with Lemon Hill – I had been there multiple times but never ventured behind the mansion, where thanks to Parks On Tap I discovered my favorite view of Philadelphia.
5. As the first Volunteer Ambassador to complete the program, can you share any advice for others looking to give back to their parks or communities?
Our parks are always in need of advocates, and there are lots of opportunities to help. The best thing to do is go to the volunteer page to see what’s available. Once you’re in touch with the Conservancy they will contact you with their current needs – and there are always roles to fill! Any effort – whether it be through volunteer ambassadorship, Love Your Park, or even just help with the website – is appreciated. If you’re interested in advocating for a specific park, joining the Friends group is a good starting point. And, of course, the best way to know what your park needs is to visit it often and get to know the other people who use it. So go have a picnic!
To learn more about our Volunteer Ambassador program, please visit our Volunteer Page.