How do you love your park? Do you jog its perimeter? Run your dog? Swing your kids? Sunbathe on the lawn? Whatever your relationship to your neighborhood park, this weekend is your chance to show it some love.
On Saturday morning, 2,000 devoted volunteers across the city will head out to their favorite local patch of green to pick up trash, paint faded fixtures, mulch trees and more to make ready their park for the 5th annual LOVE Your Park Week (LYPW).
Fairmount Park Conservancy (FPC) and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation’s eight-day hoopla encourages folks to celebrate the city’s local parks through a series of events taking place across the city. The reason is simple: The more people are involved, the better our parks are, says FPC Stewardship Coordinator Lindsey Walker. “When communities and neighbors are engaged, the parks tend to be in better shape,” because active citizens, for instance, organize cleanup days, host park events and even advocate for better maintenance by reaching out to City Council.
Through the stewardship program, Walker works to encourage the formation of and oversee Park Friends Groups made up of volunteers who work to keep their parks looking spiffy throughout the year. LOVE Your Park Week, she says, has made her job a little easier. “We started LOVE Your Park Week with 80 friends groups,” she says. “Now we have 115.”
There are lots of reasons to Love Your Park besides the obvious break from all that concrete. Adding greenery to a dull, vacant lot in a neighborhood has been shown to reduce crime rates. A Penn study of low-income areas in Philadelphia showed that planting trees in a neighborhood boosted nearby home sales by two percent. And then there’s the effect on our well-being. BioMed Central Public Health data shows that walking or running in green spaces has a positive effect on anxiety, anger, fatigue and sadness.
Whatever your reason for loving your park, there are tons of ways you can get involved this week. Here are some LYPW highlights if you …
Green spaces afford bikers the chance to enjoy their city on two wheels without all the fuss of traffic, so it’s only natural LYPW include a handful of cycling events. Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia hosts a Bike Rodeo in Mifflin Park on May 7th, while more daring riders can head across town to hit up some hills and dirt at the Pumpjam at Philly Pumptrack. Later in the week, decide between a leisurely bike tour of East Fairmount Park or a mountain bike race and ride at Belmont Plateau Trails.
BirdPhilly aims to increase public interest in our city’s feathered inhabitants through a series of bird walks throughout LOVE Your Park Week. Ogle the majestic falcons who have set up homes in City Hall, spot some woodpeckers and chickadees in Tacony Creek Park, or take in a “bird pageant” at the Carpenter’s Woods Spring Fest. On most walks, donuts, coffee and binoculars will be provided. See the full lineup of LYPW BirdPhilly events here.
The mere fact that you’re showing up to a LYPW event is a step in the right direction, but if you’re inspired to make more of a lasting impact, consider hitting up one of the more civic-minded gatherings. Parks and Rec’s Citizens Participating in Research & Restoration program is leading a Forest Restoration and Plant ID Hike on May 15th, where you can learn how to get involved with local forest preservation techniques. An interactive Water Department event on May 7th delves into ways the city is working to keep our drinking water clean. Show up to the Let’s Move Outside! Volunteer Fair on May 10th to meet with local groups, like Let’s Move Outside and Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA, offering outdoor service opportunities all year long.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation and other arts institutions are getting involved in LYPW to celebrate the centuries-old love affair between artists and their green spaces. PMA embarks on a trolley tour on May 15th to check out some of the public artworks dotting Fairmount Park. Learn to identify and draw wildflowers at a workshop in Wissahickon Park on May 7th. On May 11th, Arden Theatre Company will stage the final dress rehearsal of their newest—and quite timely—show The Secret Garden. Check out more LYPW arts events here.
Of course none of this fun would happen if we didn’t have parks, so consider donating some elbow grease at one of several service days scheduled throughout the week. Check this link to sign up and browse opportunities affording you a chance do everything from painting to planting to mowing in parks you may not have heard of. The mother of all service days takes place on May 7th in Northeast Philly’s Pleasant Hill Park. Mayor Jim Kenney and LYPW organizers will be there to plant seven new trees along the park’s fishing pier, and do some spiffing up around the fish hatchery, wetlands, playground and river walk. More on that event here.
Photo Header: Flickr/Kevin Burkett