Meet FoCP’s New Officers & Directors for 2017

2016-boardFRIENDS OF CLARK PARK elected its annual Officers & Directors on Oct. 25 at its public Membership Meeting at Griffith Hall on USciences campus.

Elected to new office or continuing from last year’s election, 18 Officers & Directors will guide West Philadelphia’s premier regional park until October 2017. We rounded up 14 of them after the meeting & here they are, R-L:

Kevin Kearney, Tony West, Fran Byers & Chip Natarajan, Directors; Frank Chance, Secretary; Barbara Nolan, Vice President; Mary Anne Lucey, Milan Marvelous & Darryl Stovall, Directors; Lisa McDonald Hanes, President; & Don Webster, Ari Kessler, Jean Marie Kouassi, Samir Thaker & Kevin Roche, Directors.

P.S.: Those who missed the photo-op are still very much part of the park team!

North Park Is Under Construction

central-plaza-2Starting Monday, the Central Plaza of the North Park (“A Park”) will be under construction for two related projects: installing long-awaited permanent chess tables to replace the ratty units the players now employ; & restoring the layer of stone fines (gravel) that now covers the plaza, which was installed in 2009 & has worn thin.

Your FRIENDS OF CLARK PARK membership dollars at work! A rough estimate of the cost is $15,000.

This is in addition to the soil-restoration project in the Parks on Tap beergarden area near 44th St. That’s coming out of the money the beergarden made for Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Dept.

For further updates on park-improvement needs & plans, come to Monday’s public General Membership Mtg. tomorrow, Monday evening, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Griffith Hall, USciences, 43rd St. & Kingsessing Mall. Attendance is free & open to all.

Any questions? Call Tony West at (267) 456-5687.

Fight for the Sugary Drinks Tax to Rebuild Our Parks & Schools!

PhiladelphiansForAFairFutureEven West Philly Bernie Sanders fans can get behind one of Hillary Clinton’s ideas!

Hillary Clinton has announced she is “very supportive” of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed Sugary Drinks Tax as the best way to rebuild the city’s bedraggled parks & recreation centers, as well as toget pre-K services for all young children.

The Democratic Presidential frontrunner told a packed forum in Philadelphia Wednesday evening: “I’m very supportive of the Mayor’s proposal to tax soda. I mean, we need universal pre-school. And if that’s a way to do it, that’s how we should do it.”

“This is major step forward for all Philadelphians who believe that we must invest in our children and in our neighborhoods, and we appreciate Secretary Clinton’s support for the plan to expand pre-K services throughout the city,” said Kevin Feeley, spokesman for Philadelphians for a Fair Future, the coalition of more than 50 citywide organizations supporting the proposed tax to fund investments in pre-K, community schools, & revitalized recreation centers, parks & libraries. “Her support helps the public understand that there is a critical need for these investments, and the proposed Sugary Drinks Tax is the fairest and most effective way to pay for them.”

The Sugary Drinks Tax is a means to pay for a bond issue that will lead to a $500 million investment to restore parks & education all across Philadelphia. It means jobs. It means families. It means growth. It means boosting real-estate values. It’s huge. We need it now.

FRIENDS OF CLARK PARK
solidly backs this creative public policy & urges all park-lovers to let City Council know they demand it. It’s time we ended a lifetime of neglect for Philadelphia’s precious green spaces! We’ve been cheated before; enough is enough.

Philadelphians for a Fair Future represents a growing coalition of organizations from all walks of life in Philadelphia, including: Public Citizens for Children and Youth; the Philadelphia Parks Alliance; the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers; Education Voters of Pennsylvania; the Service Employees International Union; Center for Popular Democracy; the Alliance of Community Service Providers; the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children; Men United for a Better Philadelphia; Ceiba; Action United; Aspira; the Center for Science in the Public Interest; FOP Lodge 5; Firefighters Local 22; District Councils 33 and 47, AFSCME; Youth United for Change; and multiple community-development corporations and small-business owners from throughout the city.

The coalition’s activities are focused on raising public awareness about the importance of the Mayor’s budget investments and the need to enact the Sugary Drinks Tax as the only fair way to pay for them.

Cindy Roberts remembered – a transformative leader of Friends of Clark Park

Cindy Roberts dishing out her historically-accurate (& tasty) Victorian trifle dessert at Dickens' Birthday Party, 2011.

Cindy Roberts dishing out her historically-accurate (& tasty) Victorian trifle dessert at Dickens’ Birthday Party, 2011.

Cindy Roberts, a West Philadelphia lover and mother who led the Parent-Infant Center, before that Spruce Hill Neighbors Ass’n, & before that Friends of Clark Park, was remembered today at the historic Arch Street Friends Meetinghouse.

250 people turned out to remember Roberts, a talented journalist & savvy businesswoman who committed to West Philadelphia when West Philadelphia wasn’t fashionable. She raised a family here and helped transform her community by her hard-nosed, fierce intelligence & her sense of humor.

Roberts played a transformative role in developing the 2001 Revitalization Master Plan for Clark Park, which laid out a long-term investment plan amounting to $2 million. About 2/5 has been implemented so far – close to $1 million of public investment inspired & unleashed by Cindy. She taught West Philly how to look beyond parochial concerns & petty bickering, & build together a public space where all of us can advance ourselves & our city.

The park you enjoy & frolic on today is Cindy Roberts’ fruit. Remember that when next you set foot on its soil.

Our mission, as FRIENDS OF CLARK PARK, is to learn her lessons & to carry out her mission. In helping to build a park & keep it live, you are building & keeping your community alive.

Ours are the actions that will endure after Cindy’s actions have returned to dust. We who love Clark Park as she did, must make an extra effort to carry on her mission of raising West Philadelphia to what it deserves to become.

Clark Park’s Jan. 25 meeting will spotlight Philadelphia green space in the Kenney era

Planning now for spring ... & for many springs to come in Clark Park.

Planning now for spring … & for many springs to come in Clark Park.

The future of parks, recreation and green space – not just for Clark Park, but for Philadelphia as a whole – in the new Kenney Administration will be featured at FRIENDS OF CLARK PARK’S Winter Public Membership Meeting on Monday, Jan. 25.

Speaking on our panel will be our 3rd District Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell; the new Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, a West Philadelphian and a member of Friends of Clark Park; Parks & Recreation’s Stewardship Coordinator Patty-Pat Kozlowski; and our own Erin Engelstad of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, a private nonprofit that helps park supporters citywide.

We’ll meet at University of the Sciences’ Griffith Hall (the old building with the pillars) at 43rd & Kingsessing at 7 p.m. That’s an easy walk from four trolleys. The security guards at the booth can direct you to the door.

Philadelphia is undergoing a historic transition in its city government. A new mayor and lots of new blood on City Council mean that parks are open to major new directions (and new investment!) in 2016. FRIENDS OF CLARK PARK intends to promote this conversation for the good of all Philadelphians, as well as for our own beloved park. We understand that no park can achieve its potential until all parks are getting what they need.

What are the needs and problems our parks face going forward? What is their value to the community? What steps should the Kenney Administration take to make them better … starting at once?

West Philadelphians who care about their green spaces will find this a particularly valuable meeting to attend! We know your turf.

Want to learn more about FRIENDS OF CLARK PARK? Founded in 1976, we are 300 strong and we curate one of the liveliest public spaces in Philadelphia. We’re an all-volunteer group. We speak for the trees. We love our neighborhood. And we get things done.

Call FoCP Board Member Tony West (267) 456-5687, or email anthony.abbott.west@gmail.com, with any questions.

TRASH CRISIS IN CLARK PARK: What We’ve Learned and What’s Being Done About It

The ever-increasing explosion of trash in Clark Park has gripped the attention of park-lovers during the 2015 peak season. FRIENDS OF CLARK PARK has explored numerous ways of tackling the problem. Some showed limited success but the underlying issue – inadequate resources for park maintenance – has left trash at unacceptable levels.

At FoCP’s annual public election meeting in Griffith Hall on Oct. 19, officers and directors, members and other neighbors talked trash in great detail and outlined four different avenues to explore for serious relief in 2016.

It’s important to begin by understanding that park trash is complicated.

Trash in “C” Park, below Kingsessing Avenue, is collected by University of the Sciences, which leases that section of the park. Trash in “B” and “A” Parks, from Kingsessing to Chester and from Chester to Baltimore respectively, is primarily the responsibility of the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department (PP&R), but we all need to work together to deal with it.

PP&R hires one Seasonal Maintenance Assistant to maintain Clark Park and neighboring Malcolm X Park from May to October, and a different SMA for October to May. The winter SMA works fewer hours than the summer SMA. FoCP voluntarily supplements our SMAs’ pay to the tune of about $1,500 per year, but they report primarily to PP&R and are not subject to FoCP’s orders, although we do communicate with them.

SMAs chiefly work by themselves, under light, remote supervision. They don’t get paid much and have no benefits or civil-service protections.

The SMA picks up loose trash, adds it to the bags in trash cans, and removes all bags to the curb. From there they are picked up by a PP&R trash truck

In addition, some loose trash is picked up when the landscaping crews on contract with PP&R mow the park, but mowing schedules are flexible and some crews are better than others at collecting trash.

Neither PP&R’s nor Streets’ plans for trash collection at a particular site are tied to current data on the amount of trash that they are collecting. So if trash doubles in Park X over a few years, no City management system notices this and says, “We need to double our man-hours, double our pickups here.” Inertia reigns instead.

Everyday usage of Clark Park did almost double just between 2006 and 2012. From 2000 to 2015, it has likely at least quadrupled. Hard-won improvements in the park, coupled with an increasing number of attractive programs, a declining crime rate, and demographic and cultural changes, have turned it into a vital community center where thousands flock to or pass through, even at times in winter.

The number of organized large events with more than 50 participants has surged from 5 in 2000 to 29 in 2015. Some are quiet, low-impact events; others draw upwards of 500 people at a time, often eating and drinking. PP&R’s legendary Stewardship Coordinator Barb McCabe (who has just been honored and promoted) said it clearly this year: “Clark Park is at capacity now.” It has no room for new events and even old events may need to be reined in a bit.

Increased crowds, both organized and random, draw vendors – food vendors especially. They are providing a service park users want. But they are not paying their full share of costs toward maintenance of the park that is lining their wallets; and they are producing more than their share of trash.

Unless they are associated with a PP&R-permitted event, like the Farmers’ Market or an approved festival, or directly licensed as a PP&R concession (which none are), no food vendors may legally operate inside the park, on the street sidewalk in the park, or even alongside the sidewalk in the street.

Philadelphia is notoriously cheap when it comes to parks. For the last 40 years it has systematically starved its park budget, allocating one-third the public resources to their maintenance that other big cities do. This is not a universal problem but a local problem! The bottom line: more of Philadelphia’s current tax dollars should go to parks than now do; PP&R’s budget should increase both in absolute numbers and in relation to other City departments. PP&R gets no respect when the City Council and Administration allocate operational funds … and that must change.

But only citizens and voters can make it change. Park-lovers must demand more from our City. We must quit taking trash for granted.

But changing City government will take time. There are other avenues for park reform that we must pursue to clean up Clark Park – other paths that may deliver quicker, if limited, gains.

1) Better coordination of existing PP&R/Streets man-hours. PP&R’s Stewardship Coordinator shifted the SMA’s hours to include some weekend work, when usage and trash generation is heaviest. Now is there a way to get its trucks to come pick it up ASAP?

2) Volunteer extra work by large-event crews. They have always collected the trash in their area and left the bags by trashcans. But these trash cans are now often overflowing by Saturday, even before festival-goers arrive. They are turning into dumps. So we’re asking all festival organizers to haul all trash off site to a City facility as part of Saturday breakdown. They were willing, but this turns out to be illegal because all Streets trash facilities are closed to the public on weekends.

3) Volunteer work by FRIENDS OF CLARK PARK Members. We’ve organized large volunteer projects for many years. But good trash collection requires constant, careful, well-timed scheduling – and continuous recruitment of Members. So we’ll be asking for a show of hands on this project!

4) Hired work by FRIENDS OF CLARK PARK. There is a model for this: Friends of Rittenhouse Square. But our economics are not theirs. FoCP must first study its books and determine how much it can spend on cleaning services, after we determine its annual budget for necessary maintenance and promised projects. Then it should ask its members how much they want to spend.

5) Seeking help from Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s office. This is the normal place to go for a neighborhood problem involving city planning and resources spread over different departments.

6) Seeking help from University City District. UCD plays an auxiliary role in cleaning the park, including helping to fund the winter SMA. UCD contributes to mowing contracts (others are performed by PP&R) and can send backup trucks sometimes on an as-needed basis. A high-level talk between FoCP and UCD could kick-start a new pushbroom for the park.

7) Supporting park activists who lobby for the right green-space budget for Philadelphia. FoCP itself can neither spend its Members’ money on political campaigns nor endorse political candidates. But FoCP can help all friends of parkland, all who know parks are to the fabric of a good city life, help all to learn how better to fight for vital community resources like Clark Park. Everybody in the neighborhood should pull together as one on this cause!

8) Last but not least … if you see trash, pick it up!
If every time you walked into the park, you picked up one item of litter — and every other user did too — it would become a pleasanter place for you as well as others.

But please understand that this is a citywide struggle. West Philadelphia neighbors must work politically with other neighborhoods to hit all City Council Members with the message that all Philadelphians derive great value from their great parks.

FoCP is putting together an ad hoc committee to study and recommend the community’s best response to the trash crisis of 2015. We urge all concerned park-lovers to join this committee and make your voice heard! We’ll announce the time and date at least one month in advance.

If you follow our website (http://www.friendsofclarkpark.org) or our Facebook group page “Friends of Clark Park”, you’ll find out how you can help clean up Clark Park.

Time To Talk Trash in Clark Park

trash2015Monday evening’s Public Membership Meeting will review the problems that contributed to the rising tide of trash in Clark Park this year, as well as FRIENDS OF CLARK PARK’S efforts to come to grips with it.

It is a complex problem, with many pieces and many players. We need members of the community to put their heads together and help us look for solutions.

Please come to the Oct. 19 meeting at 7 p.m. in Griffith Hall. That’s the big old building with classical columns on 43rd St across from Rosenberger Hall and the Kingsessing parking lot.

Our Friendly Neighborhood Sukkah

sukkahFrom Sep 27 through Oct 4, visitors to Clark Park may notice a green tent-like structure in the southwest corner of the park. The Jewish festival of Sukkot (“booths” in Hebrew) is a harvest festival and takes place for 7 or 8 days (length varies by Jewish sect) each fall, 2 weeks after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. During Sukkot, it is traditional to build a sukkah, a temporary structure that symbolizes the huts lived in by the Jewish people as they wandered in the desert for 40 years after their liberation from Egypt. Kol Tzedek Synagogue, which meets at the Calvary Center at 48th and Baltimore, is happy to have their sukkah in Clark Park for the 2nd consecutive year.

Farmers’ Market Is Open For Popin’

FarmersmarketpopePope Francis has not yet responded to the invitation by FRIENDS OF CLARK PARK to visit the Farmers’ Market this Saturday, but we remain hopeful.

Even if the Pope does not make it, though, the Food Trust Farmers’ Market will still be running from 10 am to 2 pm Saturday as usual. And it will be considerably less crowded than Center City. So come on out, pick up your produce and treats, and enjoy the weather.