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!

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.

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.

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.

Coming up soon in Clark Park….

As spring fades into summer, Clark Park invites leisurely hanging out. It’s fun to enjoy the tranquility of the scene and to watch fellow West Philadelphians go about their pleasant (and sometimes colorful) ways.

T-0594-673But there are lively organized activities coming up soon as well.

This Saturday, may 30, the Philadelphia Pétanque Tournament will hold forth in the Central Plaza of the North Park from 10 am to 4 pm. Teams will compete all day long in this unique French bowling game, which involves tossing, not rolling, steel balls toward a puck. It’s easy to play — although hard to play well. And it can be mesmerizing to watch.

T-0413-661On Saturday, Jun 13, the Uhuru People’s Fleamarket will be held in the Middle Park, at 43rd & Chester. Browsers enjoy poking through its aisles looking for items that pique their ciuriosity or things they never knew they needed until that moment. The fleamarket runs from 9 am to 5 pm.

On saturday, Jun 20, the Clark Park Music & Arts Solstice Festival will continue its tradition of more than 40 years in the Bowl. A diverse cross-section of up-and-coming musical acts will show what the Philly music scene is capapble of! A wide variety of fine artists and craftsmen will display their wares.
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Welcome to the Beergarden!

Clark_Park_Flyer_Big_TypeHow the beergarden works; if you are a new or renewing member who reups at the party, your first Dock Street beer is free; $3 thereafter. Nonmembers’ beer is $5. So you don’t have to join to enjoy!

Membership levels: Patron = $50 (2 votes/tickets), Household = $25 (2 votes/tickets), Individuals = $20, Student/Senior/Limited Income = $10.

Protestors Will Stage a Die-In in Clark Park This Saturday

A West Philly Families Solidarity March will proceed from Calvary to Clark Park tomorrow, Saturday, Jan 3.

Due to rain, they are moving the first part of the program indoors! Entrance on 48th St. They will have speakers, songs and noise-in in the church.

After noise-in, they will MARCH TO CLARK PARK to stay, play and connect.

They hope this will allow more families to participate if it is raining, and support in building community indoors. They also hope to raise their voices and be visible outside as they march to Clark Park, rain or shine, for those up for it.

The action in the park should last no longer than 45 minutes.

Holy Night – but Not Silent in Clark Park…

carols 14-1Clark Park lovers joined tonight in one of the oldest park traditions: Christmas caroling by the shed, on top of which a glittering Christmas tree is mounted. As dusk fell, it shone over three score merry carolers of all ages.

Skill was unimportant; just singing together as a community mattered.

A row of bagged candles lit the walk from Chester Ave. to the shed. Everyone got a candle and a songbook when they arrived.

Carolers ran through a hitlist that ran from the Middle Ages to 1950. Most are well known by ear to all who show up.
carols 14-2
To wrap it up, nine brave voices worked their way through Handel’s Alleluia Chorus. Scores were provided but otherwise the volunteers were on their own. The chorus was strong this year.

Then everybody broke for hot cider and catching up. It’s a great, quick, fun way to meet your neighbors.

–Tony West