This Saturday, join your neighbors and pitch in for the fall installment of Love Your Park, a citywide day of service that brings community members together to spruce up 78 parks in Philly.
The spring version of Love Your Park, which is run by the city’s parks department with support from Fairmount Park Conservancy, lasts an entire week, but in the fall we just get the one day — but even one day can make a big difference, promises Erin Engelstad, park stewardship coordinator at Fairmount Park Conservancy.
“Healthy parks make healthy neighborhoods,” she says. “Often, a park is the center of the community. It’s a place where numerous people come all the time to coexist.”
Raking, planting and trash removal are all on Saturday’s agenda. But the goal goes beyond beautification. “We believe that we are in partnership not only with the city, but also with friends and community groups,” Engelstad says, referring to local “friends” associations that care for parks and other neighborhood spots. “These days [of service] are important for friends groups and neighborhood volunteers to organize around a goal. This way they can reach out to neighbors and show them that they are there, helping.”
One example of the power of neighbors collaborating is the recently revamped Manton Street Park, named the Best Transformed Lot by the Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land. The pocket park, at Fourth and Manton, went from vacant lot to lush green space. Mayor Nutter will be on hand on Saturday to cut the ribbon and officially open the new park.
Get involved in Love Your Park
Want to be part of the solution? Check out the volunteer page at www.loveyourpark.org, where you can sign up and pick the top three parks where you’d like to volunteer. Look for the one in your neighborhood, or see who needs more help. Each park listed shows how many more volunteers are needed. If you need more incentive, head to a park that is incorporating other activities, like the Folk Fest at Saunders Park in Poweltown Village, complete with local vendors and an open mic. The festival takes place after the cleanup and is being put on by the People’s Emergency Center (www.pec-cares.org), an organization dedicated to neighborhood improvement.
First time volunteers: Plan your day accordingly. “Bring water and work gloves if you have them,” says Engelstad. “Try to communicate with the organizer beforehand. And know your physical capabilities — don’t do anything that you do not feel comfortable doing.”