When Friends of Clark Park President Douglas Naphas stepped down this past spring, I was excited to step in and have the opportunity to advance the mission of the Friends, which is to encourage, promote and coordinate efforts of neighbors, area institutions and the City of Philadelphia in maintaining, improving and utilizing Clark Park. Douglas served for more than three years, guiding park stewardship through a time of increased usage and programming. I, and the Friend’s Board of Directors, greatly thank Douglas for his time of service to the park as President and his ongoing service to the Board.
As a practicing landscape architect and experienced public space advocate, and, most importantly, one who values the importance of stewardship to the quality of our public spaces, I am thrilled to help guide the Friends at a time of increased attention to and use of our public park, our civic commons.
My family and I are long-time users and volunteers of the park, as well as members of FoCP. Our use started with taking our then-baby to the playground, and we became more aware of the Friends and its support of the park through Clark Park Soccer. The soccer program, now in its twentieth year, is an introduction to the park and its stewards for many. I was asked recently why I am active with the Friends. It is easy to tick off the needs, the backlog of maintenance and wish list for improvements. We who love the park know that there is always more to be done and more collective nurturing that can push the park forward. But for me it comes down to the connections this park has germinated, the lasting shared experiences I have had with my family, friends, neighbors and strangers.
The stories of personal connection leading to park contribution begin at the founding of public parks in Philadelphia and Clark Park particularly. I am inspired by those who serve with me and those who have served before me, volunteers giving of their free time to guide stewardship and improve park quality for the past forty-two years. We, as a member-driven organization, come together to speak up and work together for best outcomes for the park so it is ready for the next day and the next park user.
Clark Park holds a special place among Philadelphia neighborhood parks. It invites all from the near neighborhood, broader West Philadelphia, and the city at large to play, to enjoy time outside, catch an event you would not have dreamed up, to interact with those you know and with someone new. It is our wide variety of park users and happenings within the park that keep many coming back often. And it is our place to act locally for a better collective environment and healthier living for us all.
I am looking forward to building upon all of the incredible work that has formed and propelled this formidable organization. FocP has earned a reputation among the city’s friends of parks network for our capacity, magnifying park users’ feedback, and leveraging of resources. Our collective vision for the park recognizes our place in the continuum of care of this marvelous place. We have made a name for ourselves by working together, making connections between issues often seen as disparate: programming, active use, building constituencies and landscape management.
Whether it is the active recreation, the playground, dog walking, the many weekend events or the farmers market that brings you to the park, there is much to love. And because of that love there is much to do to keep the park ready for the next day and the next user. I ask you to share your experiences with the Friends, tell us what you love about the park, challenges you see, how you would love to help inform and guide improvements and care by becoming a member and joining as a volunteer whether on a committee, at a work day or joining the Board of Directors. I hope it is the lasting connections and relationships you take with you from the park that sustain and enrich your day to day in West Philadelphia.
We hold annual elections for the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee in October, this year on the 24th at 7 p.m. Please join us at that meeting to renew your membership or become a member and vote for the Director positions. I will be seeking re-election as President of the Friends at that time to serve a one-year term and will ask for your vote then. We are also seeking a few nominations for board members, particularly looking to add skill sets in development, communications and technology. Please send us your nominations by October 15th.
I am anxious to meet with you, old and new members alike, as we work together for the best Clark Park.
Lisa McDonald Hanes