Emerald Park is in mortal danger. The park, made up of nine lots on Emerald St. off the corner of E. Dauphin St., is described by neighbors and the sign outside as “The Jewel of East Kensington.”
The park was established in 1996 when neighbors, with the help of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, cleaned up these blighted lots, allowing them to build their little “neighborhood oasis.” The park is impressively maintained, with healthy grass throughout, benches, bushes, and fruit trees (the plums are even edible toward the end of the season). Around many of the trees, the community has cleared the space at the base of the trunks, surrounding them with stones to create attractive stone curbs. The welcoming space of park has been host to numerous events over the years, and holds a tremendous amount of institutional memory for the neighborhood.
As is often the case with community gardens and parks, Emerald Park is cobbled together through a combination of private and public lots. With these different lots come fascinating stories of how they have been threatened and protected over the years, and how they might become endangered in the future, as development continues in East Kensington. Right now, the community is facing a serious challenge, as the owner of one of the privately owned lots is interested in selling. This lot sits right in the middle of the park and would, if developed, cause irreparable damage to the fabric of the park.
The good news: The owner who wants to sell his lot is giving the community the opportunity to purchase it themselves. The price for the lot is $34K, and the East Kensington Neighbors Association is spearheading a fundraising drive to save the park. They are approximately halfway there in terms of donations and pledges, but there is still much work to be done. If you are interested, you can donate here. This park clearly is the heart for a neighborhood- it would be a real shame to see it compromised.