History of Fairmount Park Conservancy
Fairmount Park Conservancy is a nonprofit organization that evolved out of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park Commission. The Commission was a city agency founded in 1867 to purchase land for Fairmount Park around the Schuylkill River in order to protect the City’s water supply and provide the residents of Philadelphia with a place for outdoor activities. This was in keeping with William Penn’s original vision for Philadelphia as a “green country town.”
By the late 1990s, the Commission had come to manage more than 8,000 acres of public parkland, including neighborhood and watershed parks in addition to Fairmount Park itself. Seeking the potential to attract private investments in the City’s park system, it ordered a study that recommended the creation of an independent 501(c) 3 organization. That new organization was incorporated as the Fairmount Park Foundation in 1998 and renamed Fairmount Park Conservancy in 2001.
In 2015, Fairmount Park Conservancy merged with the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust, a nonprofit originally founded by an act of City Council to support the preservation of city-owned architectural resources in Fairmount Park. The Trust began generating revenue for historic preservation by providing investment opportunities for vacant and underutilized Fairmount Park properties and later came to offer fee-based services through an expert staff of conservators.
During the above-mentioned time period, the responsibilities of the City’s Fairmount Park Commission were merged with those of the Department of Recreation to become a new department, today known as Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. A Commission on Parks and Recreation was formed as an advisory board including experts in the field as well as the President of City Council and the Commissioners of relevant agencies.
Today, Fairmount Park Conservancy works closely with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation to champion both the natural and physical assets of Philadelphia’s extensive park system. In its first 10 years, Fairmount Park Conservancy invested more than $20 million in the Philadelphia parks system while increasing public awareness of parks’ role in contributing to the Greater Philadelphia region’s health and vibrancy. More recently, our mission and work has evolved beyond fundraising to position us as a collaborative leader and partner of the park system, focusing more strategically on planning, project management, program development, and community outreach endeavors.