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.

Trash Solutions for Clark Park – We Can Do It!

by Ann Dixon
There are so many of us enjoying the park in these glorious summer months that it gets filled with trash very quickly. It takes effort to keep it looking clean. Thomas is a seasonal employee working for the Parks and Recreation Dept. You’ll see him hard at work on weekday mornings, bagging trash and doing other tasks. Both the University City District and the City pick up those trash bags once a week. The UCD also picks up recycling once a week. Despite all this, on busy weekends trash bins are often overflowing.

Jessica Plummer is ready to clean up the park tomorrow morning, Saturday, Oct. 4. Can you pitch in for an hour & help her?

Jessica Plummer is ready to clean up the park tomorrow morning, Saturday, Oct. 4. Can you pitch in for an hour & help her?

Jessica Plummer moved to West Philly at the beginning of August. One morning she was running by the park and noticed broken bottles in the play ground. She didn’t have time to pick them up, but didn’t forget them.

A friend told her about the Friends of Clark Park. A few days after bringing up the issue at an FOCP meeting, Jessica volunteered in the park with Doug Naphas (President of FOCP) and two of her friends. They removed full trashbags from cans and put in clean liners. A couple of weeks later, she was back at it again, working with her friend Ben Crescenzo.

Jessica graduated from University of Delaware with a degree in public health in May and now works for the Food Trust as an executive assistant, helping with event planning and many other tasks. She says, “I love how communal the park is. There are so many babies and families, open space for everyone to enjoy…. Volunteers really connect people to their community.” Her parents instilled the values of volunteering, asking questions and finding solutions to problems.

She is available many weekends to deal with trash and would love some company! The next organized cleanup will be Saturday, October 4th, from 11 am – noon. Meet at 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue.

If you want to help on other dates, e-mail Jessica: jplummer@thefoodtrust.org

Need a new recycling bin? Is your DVD player dead? Stop by Clark Park on Sat. April 5th!

recycle binIn support of the 7th Annual Philly Spring Cleanup on Saturday April 5th, the 34th Woodland Ranger Otter Scouts (B-PSA) and Daisy Troop 91569 (GS-USA) will host a recycling bin give-away at Clark Park, “A” Park, beginning at 9:00am, ending at 12:00noon or when we run out.

eForce Compliance will also be providing an opportunity to recycle your unwanted electronics, but NO light bulbs, batteries, smoke detectors, TVs, or Monitors will be accepted!  9:00am-12:00noon
Clark Park “A” is between Baltimore and Chester Avenues, 43rd and 44th Streets.
Any questions or if you’d like to help out, please contact Amy Kwasnicki, kwaszilla@gmail.com

Recycling Rewards in Clark Park

On Saturday, October 13th, the Philadelphia Recycling Rewards Team set up a tent in Clark Park where they offered 250 free recycling bins and recycling information to community members. Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and Marty Cabry of the Councilwoman’s office joined the group for the event.

Philadelphia residents – sign up for RecycleBank to start earning points for recycling!

Help Us Clean Up the Dickens Statue Saturday 2/4

We need volunteers! Could you spare an hour or two on Saturday morning (2/4) to help us spruce up our famous statue of Dickens and Little Nell for the big birthday celebration? We will be picking up litter, raking old leaves, and generally tidying up the statue area for the 200th birthday celebration. Please join us! Meet at 9:00am at the Dickens statue in Clark Park (the north side of 43rd & Chester) on Saturday, February 4th.
See you there!

Trash and Recycling

Friends, we often walk through the park and notice that the trash and recycling bins are full. Our SMA (Seasonal Maintenance Associate) does his best to keep up with them, but especially when the weather is bad, or on long weekends (like this one) he can fall behind. By the way, the summer SMA (Thomas) works full-time in Clark Park, and the winter SMA (Doug) works part-time at Clark Park and part time at Malcolm X Park. Their salaries and benefits are paid for by the Parks & Recreation Department and the University City District, and they do a good job of keeping the parks tidy.
However, you can help them a lot. If the trash cans are full, DO NOT put trash (other than cans and bottles) into the recycling cans! On the other hand, if you go by a trash can that is full of cans and bottles, you can always move them into the recycling! And, if you are part of a gathering, picnic, or other event in the park, the best way to handle trash and recycling is to take them out with you. Next best is to bring a trash bag with you and leave your refuse tied up beside the cans in the park. That way the cans do not fill up too quickly. Last but not least, if you notice a lot of trash, a phone call or email to one of the groups that help take care of the park (Parks&Rec, UCD, USP, or FoCP) can alert us and we can take appropriate action.
See you in Clark Park!
Frank L. Chance, Past President