McMichael Playground Showdown


As East Falls gears for perhaps our biggest debate in a decade, Queen Street newsman Brian Hickey reviews some history, and what’s likely going down at Gustine Tuesday night.  EARLY RECAP by Chris McCabe, video to follow.

EastFallsLocal playground meeting PPR

6-29-16 UPDATE:  Great turnout last night! Scroll down to COMMENTS for an attendee’s thoughtful report as we work on a full recap with links & images. 

Let the countdown begin! Last week, playground advocate Joyce Brady created the “Fallsers for McMichael Playground” Facebook group, whose members quickly arranged to provide childcare, to make it easier for parents with small children to attend.

The pro-playgrounders have also been busy tightening up their presentation for Curtis Jones & Commissioner Lovell, while continuing to lobby for neighborhood support — the current count of online & paper signatures is close to 1000, sources say.

Neighbors near the park, however, have been quite vocally oppositional.

Back in 2006 when McMichael last faced a playground proposal, things got pretty ugly.

EastFallsLocal Philly Voice june

In a blog post late Monday, PhillyVoice writer (and East Falls local) Brian Hickey suggested we’re bracing for another “community battle” — one that divides residents into two passionate camps:  those who feel McMichael could be more use to the community, and those who like it just fine as it is, thank you.

Despite “strong feelings” anticipated, this meeting is not intended to produce any sort of decision for or against a McMichael playground. For Curtis Jones, the meeting is about “productive dialog in which both sides will be able to present their case.”

Both sides have 15 minutes to present to Councilman Jones and Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. A coin flip will decide who goes first, then, a 45-minute *moderated* Q&A will follow during which neighbors can chime in and be heard.

Best of all: cameras allowed! We’ll be recording, of course, and encourage anyone concerned about civil discourse to do the same.

EastFallsLocal lets talk about mcmichaal

Let’s all get down to Gustine Rec Center for this meeting Tuesday night. The more input we give Curtis Jones & PPR, the better McMichael can serve our whole community. Hope to see you there.



Petition to SAY YES to a natural playground.

Petition to SAY NO to a playground here.

EastFallsLocal wish list for mcmichael meeting



  1. What a great turnout for the forum! Thanks to all who presented and thanks to Parks & Recreation and Councilman Jones for hosting the community. It’s just amazing that there is a such a brouhaha over a children’s playground in a public park.

    Like I said at the forum, it’s not as if anyone is proposing to turn McMichael Park into a parking lot or a toxic waste dump. With all due respect to the anti-playground folks, McMichael is not a “nature preserve” or pristine green space. It’s an urban park smack dab in the middle of dense neighborhood, bordered on four side by busy city streets. I have walked through the park too many times over the last 18 years not to notice the crabgrass and weeds and brown patches that pass for the “pastoral green space” that folks proclaim is McMichael Park. Yes, it’s a nice park, and we should cherish it and protect it from truly, incompatible uses (e.g., as a parking lot for the flea market); no, it’s not Yosemite or Yellowstone or Walden Pond.

    As for all of the so-called “needs” of McMichael Park, which, according to Alexis Franklin, are great and going unmet, I place the blame squarely on the Friends for a lack of leadership and vision in creating a broad and diverse base of support for the park and in passing the torch onto a new generation of park users and supporters. For 26 years (1990-2016), the Friends have operated as a closed, secretive group of maybe 20 or so members. It’s no wonder there is no money to fix the bandstand, or to prune, or to mulch. When’s the last time the Friends held a fundraiser to help the park? Anyway, would you contribute to the Friends if the Friends sought only to further its narrow self-interest of keeping park “passive” and under-utilized? Would you contribute to the Friends if you had no say in how the money was going to be spent? Would you contribute to the Friends if you had no idea how to join the Friends, or how the Friends was organized and managed (i.e., did it have a board of directors – and how was leadership determined)?

    And when’s the last time the Friends announced a truly open meeting for all residents of East Falls and park users to discuss openly and honestly on ways to improve the park and to allow for other uses of the park, and perhaps to raise funds for the betterment of the park. The Friends is supposed to be a community-based group, but in my view it’s really akin to a private club. (By the way, three of the five speakers in the anti-playground camp are members of the Friends.) You can’t even post to the Friends’ Facebook page with comments or suggestions – I tried, and my post was deleted almost immediately!

    Simply, it’s hard to raise money for the park when the same folks have run the Friends for 26 years, and have not allowed others a transparent way to join the Friends for fear of diluting their power to control what happens in the park. For 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, the Friends admitted in paperwork filed with Parks & Recreation that they did not hold regular meetings of any kind. (I suspect the same is true for prior years as well.) How can the Friends call themselves community-based with such a record of non-openness? The Friends also admits that it is not a 501(c)(3) organization, so it cannot legally raise tax-deductible contributions to help defray costs of park maintenance and upkeep or to fund other worthy causes in the park.

    Bottom line, a playground in McMichael Park will be a win-win for the park and the community. The pro-passive park folks will still have a park that is at least 90-95% passive (so that’s a win for them) and the pro-playground folks will have a playground for the kids and for community-building (so that’s win for them). Literally, no one loses with a playground, and McMichael Park in the end will have a broader base of support than it has now, leading undoubtedly to increased opportunities to raise funds for park upkeep and other needs.

    Thank you.

  2. Quote Chris:
    >>”It’s an urban park smack dab in the middle of dense neighborhood, bordered on four side by busy city streets.”<<

    And this is precisely WHY they don't want this playground. "Nature space" is simply a polite stand-in for their *real* opposition. They feel that they own the park and would prefer to thwart encroachments by the plebeian horde. They can't just come out and say this, of course….

    I can understand why they feel this way. I'm a bit like that myself. Sometimes we need to be reminded that public spaces are owned by……. the public! And to ease those fears, look down the hill at Inn Yard Park. You will see a playground that has been installed for several years. There is no graffiti, no litter, and nobody ever hangs out there at night drinking booze and smoking pot. People actually use it as intended – as a playground for kids.

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