Alexis Franklin writes in defense of green space at McMichael Park and recaps a recent vote by the Friends group.
The playground at McMichael discussion has certainly intensified in the past few weeks – there are now two petitions on Change.org and several highly entertaining threads on the Nextdoor messageboard. There’s also been a surprisingly civil EFCC meeting on the topic with respectful questions from both sides of the issue.
To make clear her group’s position (and to recap a vote the membership recently held), Alexis Franklin, Coordinator of the Friends of McMichael Park, provided the following letter —
May 14, 2016
The Friends of McMichael Park met shortly after our clean up day in McMichael Park fondly called “Love Your Park Day.” We had 33 volunteers this year and, as always. they all do beautiful work, with the support of the Fairmount Park Conservancy. We welcomed our freshman class of volunteers from both East Falls and beyond the neighborhood. I should mention that two of our long time volunteers of McMichael Park also volunteered at Inn Yard Park for LYP/2016 as they did not get any volunteers from the neighborhood except for their park coordinator.
Our group met on May 10, 2016. Twenty members of the Friends of McMichael Park voted unanimously that children should be encouraged to play in McMichael Park and also voted unanimously that equipment was unnecessary and unwanted.
We discussed the undefined playground and to poll the Friends’ views on the park. Friends of McMichael Park Members also provided source research linked here and here on the topic. Pocket parks and viaducts are actively being sought and considered to create green, natural space and since 1929 we have it here in East Falls already.
The consensus is: the playground is not clearly defined, i.e., footprint and design. Fencing was also raised according to the ASTM standard used by Parks and Recreation. Some members felt that our three existing playgrounds (McDevitt, InnYard and Cloverly) are underutilized.
The unanimous vote by the Friends is to maintain the passive, natural and peaceful setting of McMichael Park. It is important to point out that the Friends of McMichael Park who were not in attendance have the ability to sign the natural passive Park petition.
Several members at the meeting successfully raised children utilizing McMichael Park as a natural play space and place for parents to socialize without any equipment.
They also felt that the same opportunities exist for children and parents today. It is thought that interactive games encourage creativity, inventiveness, socialization and leadership qualities. The natural park petition is now over 100 supporters in 5 days. The Friends had a unanimous vote and a vast number of residents are in agreement.
I would mention that we reached out to the Friends of Inn Yard Park to discuss if former playground proponents have helped clean and maintain the structure and park afterwards. Although the recent numbers for LYP were disappointing, the Friends of Inn Yard Park maintain that the playground is available for everyone.
They may try to reschedule another cleanup day as the mulch pile is still there. There are no issues with safety of the playground at Inn Yard Park.
For the past twenty-six years, the mission of the Friends of McMichael Park has always been to restore and preserve the six acres of McMichael Park. Safety is also our primary concern. The trees are pruned 20 feet from the base so that a clear long view is for all to see from corner to corner. How fortunate our community is to have a natural peaceful green space. Other neighborhoods are not as fortunate. McMichael Park is for everyone: “One Natural Park. One East Falls.”
Also, Steve (Editor’s Note: Yours Truly), as you say, since you are not pro playground but pro activism, I challenge you to look into our business community, the hub of the neighborhood at Ridge and Midvale. Ask all of the proprietors who invest in this community how they feel about neighbors not walking down the hill to buy a cup of coffee or use the bank or frequent a restaurant.
There should be strong and vigorous support in the efforts of the many developers and owners who are making significant investments in the Ridge/Midvale business corridor (David Grasso, Rick Colucci, How Properties, East Falls Ridge Avenue Partners and others) and the many business establishments who are endeavoring to create a vital and thriving sense of place.
The location of Inn Yard Park represents an important gathering place for our families and our community in support of this growth and our future.
Coordinator of the Friends of McMichael Park
For more about the history of the Friends, and their accomplishments, click for a letter from Alexis Franklin.
For the full story, read Penn street playground supporter Chris McCabe’s rebuttal.