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Philadelphia’s parks are a priceless resource. Ask for investment, improvement, and commitment to our vital greenspaces from city government. 

Find out who represents you on the City Council and reach out to let them know you want the city to invest in the parks that bring communities together.

Here you can find the schedule for the Philadelphia City Council meetings as well as instructions on how to sign up to speak. You can review the agendas on the calendar here and watch meetings live here.

The official website for the Office of the Mayor provides basic information and a contact number, but you can also reach out using this form.

Stay informed about what’s happening to The Meadows and any future activism or events at Save the Meadows’ Instagram.

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Got Nature?

Opportunities to get outdoors in Philly

Find nature in the city for education, recreation and peace.

The National Audubon Society and the Philadelphia Outward Bound School created and run the Discovery Center in Strawberry Mansion / East Fairmount Park. It’s worth a visit: To walk around the reservoir-turned-nature preserve, look for birds (especially in fall and spring), check out the freshwater mussels, take part in community events — which often include canoeing and zip lining. 

Enjoy hiking in the Wissahickon, and then some.

In Color Birding Club is more than just a BIPOC birdwatching group. The group offers inclusive events that bring more voices to new spaces and serve underserved communities in meaningful ways. 

Get Involved

Engaged citizens strengthen democracy

One of the founding tenets of The Philadelphia Citizen is to get people the resources they need to become better, more engaged citizens of their city.

We hope to do that in our Good Citizenship Toolkit, which includes a host of ways to get involved in Philadelphia — whether you want to contact your City Councilmember to voice your support for improving Philadelphia’s green spaces, get those experiencing homelessness the goods they need, or simply go out to dinner somewhere where you know your money is going toward a greater good.

Find an issue that’s important to you in the list below, and get started on your journey of A-plus citizenship.

Vote and strengthen democracy

Stand up for marginalized communities

Create a cleaner, greener Philadelphia

Help our local youth and schools succeed

Support local businesses

What The Inquirer Got Wrong About FDR Park

A recent editorial declared support for remaking the South Philly park as an outdoor turf sports complex. That is not what we really need

What The Inquirer Got Wrong About FDR Park

A recent editorial declared support for remaking the South Philly park as an outdoor turf sports complex. That is not what we really need

The Inquirer Editorial Board waded into the controversy over the redesign of FDR Park last week, declaring their support for the Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Master Plan to turn the naturally-occurring meadows in FDR Park in South Philly into an outdoor sports complex, featuring artificial turf fields.

They were wrong to do so.

As I laid out in The Citizen several weeks ago, the city needs more sports fields. For sure. And, as a longtime Anderson Monarchs fan (love you, Mo’ne Davis!), sports parent (go Philadelphia Dragons!) and Philadelphian who spends a whole lot of time with children experiencing poverty and living in neighborhoods rife with gun violence, I 100 percent recognize Philly’s absolute need for more playable sports fields. We need safe spaces where kids can learn teamwork and develop all manner of strategic, physical and leadership skills…

… But we need these spaces in neighborhoods all over the city, in places people can walk to, or that are a couple of bus stops away.

Most people — 80 percent — who go to FDR (which longtime residents call “the Lakes”) drive, according to the Conservancy. A few take SEPTA, bike, or rideshare. Almost none walk, because FDR isn’t near much housing, and is across two fairly hard-to-cross streets. Some weekends, the Lakes have their own traffic jams.

FDR is a destination public park. It is not a neighborhood park.

Of course Philadelphians need and deserve to have public sports fields, even complexes of them. But we also deserve to have accessible nature. We deserve to have both. We are worth it. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

I know. I’m there a lot. My kid plays baseball there. His elementary school hosts its fundraiser there. My family and friends used to go to the hilly golf course-turned-Meadows to walk, swing on the tree swing, bike, picnic, throw a ball, or just take a minute. In the midst of the pandemic and beyond, the Meadows felt absolutely magical: the fields of tall grasses, the birds, the paths through woods, the hidden ponds, even the invasive vines that covered a copse of trees looked otherworldly.

I’d encourage you to visit, but you can’t now, because it’s cordoned off and full of bulldozers.

Yes: FDR Park needs help. It floods. Its fields get soggy. When it rains, some of the baseball dugouts turn into tiny ponds. This is from rain, but also, reports the Conservancy, from runoff from the seas of pavement on three sides of the Lakes — adjacent Pattison Avenue and Broad Street and the parking lots for the Linc, Citizens Bank Park, NovaCare Center, and the rest. It is also because the tidal gate is broken, because of climate change, and most of all because long before the Olmsted bros were hired to redesign it, it was marsh, a place meant to absorb extra water from the river next to it.

If we want to make FDR most useful for the citizens who use it — the hundreds of people who work in and go to the amazing Southeast Asian market on the weekends; the thousands of beautifully diverse families who rent affordable picnic spaces there for kids’ birthdays, Eid, reunions, graduations; for the folks who come fish, walk, jog, cycle, hike, birdwatch, skate or just hang out — we could fix the drainage, mitigate the invasive species, improve the current sports fields, and preserve the Meadows part of it.

Vacant lots? They are abundant. Nature? Not so much.

One thing South Philly has lots and lots of: Vacant, flat land, perfect for soccer, football and other sports fields. The massive, mostly empty parking lot directly across Pattison Avenue from FDR, for example. The vast swaths of cracked concrete in the Navy Yard, next door to the Lakes. All that unused, weedy space along Columbus Boulevard, even abandoned lots right there in Packer Park … Why can’t we put a major span of sports fields there, or, better yet, fix parks in neighborhoods whose residents desperately need them?

One thing South Philly has none of: Natural space.

Months ago, Keith Russell, program manager at Audubon Mid-Atlantic, born-and-raised Philadelphian, and nationally revered Black naturalist, spoke with me about what Philadelphia is doing to develop natural spaces like Cobbs Creek and FDR for more sports.

“There’s pressure on politicians to convert parkland to areas of specific recreation,” he says, “We need areas for people to let go and do lots of things, including nature observation and just peaceful reflection. With the stress that people are under in life, an easy and very effective way of coping with it is to walk through the woods. And when your local woods is fenced, or not there anymore, what are people supposed to do?”

Russell says experiencing nature as a city kid changed his life. He believes it can do the same for more Philadelphia kids, if they have access to it. He believes Philadelphia kids deserve great sports facilities and nature. That’s why he worked so hard on establishing the Discovery Center in Strawberry Mansion, another hidden gem.

The Meadows at FDR Park under a cloudy sky last spring

Also: The planners of this $225 makeover didn’t exactly consult many youth or adult sports leaders about bringing their games or matches to the park.

Two of us at The Citizen spoke with African soccer teams in Southwest Philly, a Haitian soccer team, players and leaders of the fútbol teams who play on FDR’s current, pitted soccer fields on Sundays, South Philly’s Sigma Sharks youth football club, and the Dragons. Two people from that list were consulted about the plan while it was being formulated. Fairmount Park Conservancy and Parks and Rec just assumed that if they built these turf fields, they would come.

They might. These amateur athletes are really resourceful. The Monarchs have said they’d use the new fields. Anthony “Coach Ant” Meadows of the Sigma Sharks dreams of having a multi-team youth football tournament there (or anywhere).

But, to a person, every coach and player says they’d prefer to play closer to home. They’d prefer parks nearby were playable — usable, even.

Like Eastwick’s Suffolk Park, where African soccer players can’t even get the City to give them trash cans or fix their basketball hoops. Like Vare, which is currently getting the redo the Sharks have been waiting for, for a long time. Like Columbus Square, whose field’s recent expensive overhaul isn’t working out quite as expected. (It now floods worse than ever.)

These teams deserve to have safe, playable fields close to home. They also deserve to have a sports multiplex where they can host tournaments and the like. But that sports complex does not have to be on the one beautiful, natural spot left in South Philly.

“There’s pressure on politicians to convert parkland to areas of specific recreation,” Keith Russell says, “We need areas for people to let go and do lots of things, including nature observation and just peaceful reflection.”

In July, before bulldozers arrived, I suggested Fairmount Park Conservancy and Parks and Rec convene these sports groups at the park, and let them experience what nature made, and talk about alternatives for siting the proposed turf fields. It’s possible FPC listened. They scrapped the plan to remake a golf driving range there. But there wasn’t a meeting. There wasn’t a concerted effort to compromise, to find middle ground.

I can’t speak for nature — trees don’t complain; birds can’t go on the record — but it’s reasonable to assume red-tail hawks and bald eagles that nested there liked the Meadows as they were. So did the deer, groundhogs and migratory birds — all being run out by construction work. (If you want to see videos and photos of the destruction going on, visit savethemeadows.com, or on Instagram @savethemeadows. Warning to animal lovers: Some photos are disturbing.)

Philly students would have liked it too, had they been able to take field trips to the Meadows. So might have nonprofits who are working hard to heal our citizens from trauma from gun violence, opioids, poverty.

Of course Philadelphians need and deserve to have public sports fields, even complexes of them. But we also deserve to have accessible nature. We deserve to have both. We are worth it. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

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Photo by Lauren McCutcheon

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