The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit that operates several branches across the country. One of its newer branches located in Philadelphia, which has been active for about three and a half years now, operates the Parks for People–Philadelphia program.
Through the program, The Trust for Public Land works with the City of Philadelphia, as well as other partners, to identify existing schoolyards and recreation centers as prime opportunities for conversion into greened play spaces and recreation areas.
“We are working to put every American within a ten minute walk to a healthy park. A safe, healthy park,” said Maryse Beliveau-Nance, project manager.
Earlier this month, the program held a ribbon cutting at Hank Gathers Recreation Center, located in Strawberry Mansion, which now has new play equipment and swings with safety surfacing, a spray park, upgraded seating areas, a picnic grove under a canopy of trees, a walking path, and new fencing.
The project at Hank Gathers Recreation Center is the second of ten planned sites (five of which are school yards, five of which are recreation centers) to be completed through a public/private partnership, known as Green2015, between the City of Philadelphia, The Trust for Public Land, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the School District of Philadelphia and several other nonprofit and community groups.
“Our sites in Philadelphia are focused primarily on underserved areas and areas that haven’t been invested in in a long time in a substantial way, and we selected sites that really needed improvements and had dense communities around them,” said Danielle Denk, program manager at Trust for Public Land. “Communities that called these ‘asphalt lots’ if you want to give them another word. They’re parks and we’re really transforming them into beautiful places for creative, healthy play, and multi-generational use.”
The partnership also recently completed its first project at William Dick Elementary School, located directly across from Hank Gathers, in the fall.
“If you can imagine a kid going to a school with a green schoolyard, being able to play and learn outside, and then walking across the street to an equally green Rec center — [which is] the largest provider of after school programming in the city,” said Patrick Morgan of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. “Envisioning that experience for children and families was really a guiding piece of this partnership.”
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A few of the other sites are planned similarly, according to Morgan, with rec centers near schools. In addition, in order for a school to have been selected, it must be open and accessible beyond school hours so that it can serve as a park.
“Creating these schoolyards is transformative for the the kids and the community, because they’re open after hours and on weekends,” said Beliveau-Nance. “That’s one of the prerequisites for us to go and develop a schoolyard, so it becomes the community park.”
Currently, through Green2015, TPL is working with communities near Jose Manuel Collazo Park, Conestoga Playground,37th & Mt. Vernon Playground, Lanier Playground, John H. Taggart School, Edwin M. Stanton School, and John M. Patterson School to re-design and renovate these neighborhood green spaces.
Image via Jenna Stamm-30-
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