If you are driving into Philly from points west, one of the major elements you see along that drive as you near the city is Kelly Drive or Boathouse row. They're both part of Fairmount Park, which runs along both sides of the river, beginning around East Falls, and is set to be improved after a lengthy public-input and planning process. Improvements will include improving new connectors at old locations and building new trails with the goal of bringing people deeper into the park.
Like in the East Park at 33rd & Ridge, where the Mander Rec Center welcomes people to the park. Imagine a renovated rec center that serves more as a gateway to the park, and some new trails that bring you down to Kelly Drive, maybe by connecting with the preexisting Boxer Trail, and you've got something like the vision, which begins with identifying short-term goals and leads to the longer-term.
The New Fairmount Park: An Improvement Plan for East and West Fairmount Park is the result of a comprehensive year-long public process undertaken last year by Penn Praxis, Parks and Rec. and The Fairmount Park Conservancy. Through public meetings it engaged up to 700 members of the public—near neighbors, city dwellers, and those who traveled to the park from outside city limits.
“Really what we've been trying is to make improvements to the edge of the park that bring people into the park,” said Patrick Morgan, a Parks and Rec. spokesperson.
The study identifies five focus areas, each referred to as a gateway: Brewerytown, East Parkside, West Parkside, Strawberry Mansion and the aforementioned Mander Rec Center. The park, according to the study, brings in more than seven million people on annual basis. Planned improvements include things like showcasing the historical aspects of the park, allowing swimming, building new pedestrian connector bridges and establishing blue streets, by bringing neighbors into the park by linking people from community nodes while also managing stormwater.
This all started with the question “what is an actionable plan for the park?” according to Morgan. “We're all aligned in terms of getting as many things done as quickly as possible.” And we'll be watching, with bated breath.