Philadelphia’s Park and Recreation, in collaboration with the Fairmont Park Conservancy, officially kicked off the “Love Your Park” campaign on Saturday.
Hundreds of visitors attended the Love Your Park Week kickoff event at Clark Park in University City, where vendors peddled wares, food and garments along with exotic art and books. There were also performances on the stage situated in the park where live musicians performed as visitors ate lunch beneath the trees of the park.
However, activities were not limited to Clark Park.
“We have a 102 park sites that will be planting trees, cleaning up garden beds to get ready for the Spring and Summer seasons,” said Jennifer Mahar, director of park stewardship at the Fairmont Park Conservancy.
Mahar said her job consists of helping to organize events such as the Love Your Park Week.
During this week, Mahar said there will be over 70 events throughout the city.
“A lot of fun family events, pretty much in every neck of the woods with everything like plants sales, concerts to community days. It’s going to be a very fun week,” Mahar said.
Love Your Park week began as Love Your Park Day in 2010. Mahar said it later expanded to become a week-long event.
“We really rely on the neighbors on the ground so much of the events being organized are the happening because of the hard work and dedication of the park Friends groups,” she said.
Among those would be the Friends of Clark Park.
Founded in 1895, Clark Park - named after Clarence H. Clark, First president of 1st National Bank of Philadelphia and founder of the Union League- is nine acres of land formerly a dumping site.
Today, it is a place where families take their children, walk their pets, students go to unwind or engage in quiet study and residents go to unwind.
Tony West is both a board member of the Friends of Clark Park.
“Clark Park serves a lot of neighborhoods in West Philadelphia and Spruce Hill is one of them,” he said. “They give this every spring and it is famous in the neighborhood.”
West describes the Friends of Clark Park as the support group for Clarks Park.
“All parks in the city have support groups, some are large, some are small, we are one of the larger and we have over 300 members,” he said.
West said the efforts of the organization have allowed them to acquire grants, which were used to improve the physical landscape of the park including a half-million dollar redesign of the North park which was completed two years ago.
There were also improvements of the parks basketball court and playground for the children.
“We have seen a dramatic increase in park usage as a result,” West said. “A fair amount of behind-the-scenes work preserves the tranquility and spirit of commonality [of the park] because the more people use the park the more competition there is for its space. This park is intensively used, it is the heart and soul of the neighborhood, everyone knows that.”
Such usage requires planning, which must be done by the community, according to West.
“That’s our job to provide a forum where we can bring all of the different types of park users together,” he said.
Among those visiting the park on that day was State Rep. James Roebuck, who said he is a resident of the area and that the park was his neighborhood park.
“The idea is that this is a unique resource for the neighborhood, it’s an open space in a very well developed urban area,” Roebuck said. “Whatever we can do to enhance the park, draw more young people in, would be good for neighborhood.”
For more information about Love Your Park Week activities or to find out what’s happening at neighborhood parks, visit the Fairmont Park Conservancy online at myphillyparks.org or loveyourpark.org.