UPDATE (MAY 11): Playground gains acceptance at last EFCC meeting– FULL STORY HERE
Ten years ago a proposed playground in McMichael Park led to contentious community meetings and a defeat for playground advocates. A new group, led by Joyce Brady, is back for another try.
“Hoo boy” is the general reaction we get from old-time neighbors when we ask about the last McMichael Park playground meeting ten years ago. The story goes that things got kinda feisty and there was lots of bad blood before, during, and after a number of community meetings to hash out the issue. Even today, conversations on Nextdoor.com can get a bit prickly.
Joyce Brady, head of a group seeking a playground at McMichael Park, doesn’t seem overly concerned about the past or the pushback. She’s more interested in building support and as much consensus as she can among local mothers and the park neighbors.
Last month, her group of about 20 supporters had their inaugural meeting at BuLogics (during the half-hour “social” period before East Falls Forward’s general meeting). Joyce provided the following recap, as well as a rationale for why she believes McMichael and a playground would be perfect together:
We had a very positive turnout at our first meeting. Our goal is to make a small footprint in McMichael Park and create an eco-friendly, easily maintained, child-friendly playground. This playground would not include a basketball court, baseball field or destroy any living trees.
We plan to survey as many residents as we can. To those opposed to the idea of a playground at McMichael Park; we would like the opportunity to address your concerns. To those in favor, we’d appreciate your signatures on our petition.
We will be going door-to-door throughout the neighborhood to get as many signatures as possible. Our goal is 750-1000, which we’ll send to Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.
It can generally increase property values by 15-20 percent, lower crime rates, and attract new residents. It gives people a local gathering place within walking distance, where they can develop deeper community ties. And most importantly a playground helps facilitate a child’s cognitive, emotional, physical and social development.
We’ve had a great start to our effort and I’d like to share some of the feedback I received after our initial meeting. Here are quotes from two of our members:
“The meeting was hopefully the first of many discussions amongst the entire community on this topic. While it’s evident that there is a broad spectrum of opinion on a playground in McMichael Park, it’s also clear that ultimately we all love our community and wish to see it continue to thrive. With a growing population of young families, a central place for parents and children to gather would only serve to improve community ties and strengthen the bonds of our neighborhood.”
– Maggie Seefried
“A playground at McMichael Park could be a huge benefit for East Falls. It would attract young families as new home buyers and foster a strong sense of community.”
– Keri Rozzi
I share their optimism and look forward to constructive dialogue with all members of our community. — JB
Love Your Park
A gesture of good will might get some positive conversations going. And McMichael could always use more love. The Love Your Park volunteer event is Saturday May 7 from 9 til noon. Volunteers are encouraged to bring tools — wheelbarrow, rakes, shovels, lopers or other pruning devices to this general cleanup. Feel free to bring the kids too.
Final word from EFL: McMichael Park as it is — while a beautiful space indeed — does not constitute a natural playground, because it has nothing to really play with. The turtle was once a sandbox at least but now he’s just a lightly-chipped sculpture behind a curious mini-wall (no offense, Turtle, I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do with you).
Active play is crucial for healthy childhood development — a playground provides unique physical experiences like swinging in the air and climbing as far as your arms can go. There’s also a social component to playgrounds, where kids learn to share and take turns. Plus, a playground at McMichael announces we’re child-friendly in East Falls, and helps promote us to new families.
Much more is going on at playgrounds, than kids running off energy. A less “passive” McMichael park would require more maintenance, but could also provide additional benefits to the community. Certainly, a compromise would be needed.
The conversation continues on Nextdoor…
Meanwhile, we’ll be checking in soon with Alexis Franklin, who started Friends of McMichael Park and who kindly forwarded some cool facts and history about the park that’ll help us all love this greenspace even more — and appreciate the hard work they’ve done to turn a neglected neighborhood nuisance into a beloved local resource.
Hopefully, both Friends & parents will find common ground to work from. Now that we have such a lovely park, seems conversations about how to make it even more special & meaningful for the community are a perfectly logical next step.