Issues and Actions Prior to October 2012
For more recent issues and actions, please see
the ParkAdvocacy and ParkPolicy Pages


Together, we defeated the Parks for Cash Bill!

Thanks to your efforts we've defeated House Bill 2224, the Parks for Cash Bill! The PA Senate went into recess on October 17th without voting on House Bill 2224 and will not return until November 14th, after the election. Senators have made it clear they will not vote on any bills in the lame duck session, so the bill is dead. If legislators want to pursue this issue, then they will have to introduce a new bill in 2013.

With your help, the Parks Alliance:

  • Sent 1700 email letters to our PA State Senators
  • Worked with Senate staff to express constituent concerns and review potential amendments
  • Inspired 4 news articles on this legislation
  • Sent official organizational letters to all PA State Senators
  • Spread the word about this legislation through multiple email blasts and social media outreach
  • Joined a coalition of 84 organizations, led by the Pennsylvania Association of Land Trusts (PALTA), in actively opposing HB 2224

Thanks for all of your hard work and outreach on this issue! Please take a minute to thank your State Senator for halting HB 2224 by phone or through this email thank you letter.

Visit www.conservationadvocate.org for more information.

Press:
Making it Easier to Sell Parkland Shouldn't be Easy
Bill would place parks at the whim of pols
Proposed law would ease municipal sale of parks


Campaign to Restore $8 million to Parks & Recreation
$2.675m Increase for Parks & Rec Approved by City Council Committee!

We have reason to celebrate! On November 14th, City Council’s Appropriations Committee voted to approve a mid-year Transfer Ordinance effectively increasing the Department of Parks and Recreation’s operating budget for FY 2013 by $2.675 Million. The Parks Alliance fully anticipates that the Bill will be approved by City Council and signed by Mayor Nutter in the coming weeks. This is a momentous first step in addressing decades of underfunding of Philadelphia’s parks and recreation.

The Parks Alliance applauds those Councilmembers who have stuck with this issue making good on their commitments to Park and Recreation, Mayor Nutter for his commitment to work with Council to make this critical investment, the high performing Department of Parks and Recreation, and all the park and recreation supporters from neighborhoods across Philadelphia for working together to make this happen. The ordinance, Bill 120818, will be given first reading at City Council on November 15th. We will be in touch with further updates.

For more information, read the Metro article, "City Council committee approves $2.6m hike in Parks and Recreation funding"

or the Philadelphia Inquirer post, "At long last, Philly Parks likely to get more money"


It was the bottom of the ninth, bases were loaded…

This spring, The Philadelphia Parks Alliance mounted a tireless campaign to restore funding to Parks and Recreation – rallies, press conferences, letters, meetings, phone calls, and new reports.   We won support from City Councilmembers who stepped up to the plate. By mid-June City Council, led by Council President Darrell Clarke, had amended the Mayor’s budget to include a $2.66 million increase for Parks and Recreation.

 

But we struck out swinging…
On June 28, 2012 City Council voted to approve the fiscal year 2013 budget that unfortunately did not include an increase to the Department of Parks and Recreation. It is flatlined at $47.8 million. While we are confident that the Department will do the best job possible, this budget continues years of underfunding and adds another year of broken promises.

The $2.66 million proposed increase to Parks and Recreation was overwhelmed by the pressures of reforming the property tax system and funding the huge deficit of the school district. Once Council opted not to pass the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) – the funds that would have been used to increase Parks and Recreation were not there. 

What’s great about baseball… there’s always another season, another game, another inning…
We didn’t win the budget increase this time … but we will.  Why? 

  • Because we are stronger and more unified than ever. We have solid support on Council and the Mayor wants to make it happen. 
  • Because Council is still considering a bill, introduced by Councilman Squilla and eight other Council members that would generate an estimated $2 million new dollars for parks and recreation by increasing the surcharge on parking violations.
  • Because if the budget projections on the cost of property tax appeals turn out to be lower (in part due to State action) there could be more money for Parks and Recreation even in this year’s budget.

Three months ago the idea of increasing Parks and Recreation wasn’t even on the table… the Parks Alliance organized hundreds of park and rec leaders from every neighborhood, we filled Council chambers and demanded restoration of $8 millions to Parks and Recreation. We put it on the table!

Over the last month, groups and individuals like you from around the city sent 1,588 letters to Mayor Nutter and City Council telling them that Parks and Recreation are not optional. We visited City Councilmembers in their offices and we told them why parks and recreation are important to our families, our neighborhoods and our city. We testified at every public and neighborhood Budget hearing in all corners of the city and attracted over 20 media stories. 

Up to bat again…
We will be up to bat again… and we will need you to fight with us just like you did this spring. Thank you for your generous and passionate commitment to creating safe and well-maintained parks and recreation facilities. 


Philadelphia Parks & Recreation by the numbers:
How does Philadelphia's Parks & Recreation compare to other cities?

 

►Philadelphia spends just $8,906 per acre on over 11,000 acres of park and rec facilities. Chicago, a city with comparable acreage spends more than triple this amount.

  • Philadelphia spends $64 per resident on parks and recreation. Cleveland spends almost double per resident, Chicago spends more than double per resident and San Francisco spends more than 5 times what Philadelphia spends per resident.
     
  • Philadelphia has only 4 Park & Employees per 10,000 residents, that’s less than half the employees per residents than Cleveland, Chicago or Pittsburg.
     
  • Every year, parks and recreation has had less staff positions. In 1970 the Fairmount Park Commission had more employees than the combined Department of Parks of Recreation does today.
     
  • In 2011, volunteers in parks alone contributed 220,000 hours, which is an estimated $4.8 billion in sweat equity.


See our full analysis of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation by the Numbers for more information


April 17th, 2012- Parks Alliance Packs Council Chambers and Calls to Restore Promised $8 Million

Discovery Charter 5th grade students calling to "Restore $8 million!"

Discovery Charter 5th grade students calling to "Restore $8 million!"

 

Chanting “Restore $8 Million” 250 citizens and children packed Council Chambers – overflowing into the balcony on April 17, for the City Council hearing on the Department of Parks and Recreation budget.  The Philadelphia Parks Alliance brought together advocates from every corner of the city, representing 97 organizations – from park friends groups, to schools, from rec center advisory councils to athletic groups, from environmental coalitions to residents associations – united in their call to increase resources for our desperately underfunded parks and recreation centers.

Councilmembers heard us loud and clear.   Councilman Kenyatta Johnson queried the Mayor’s Budget Director Rebecca Rhynhart as to why parking tax revenue is not going to fund parks as promised, declaring “A promise is a promise” and asked if the Administration had a plan to re-dedicate the parking tax revenue as originally promised.  Learn more about the parking tax in our Briefing Paper and Broken Promises graph.

Councilmember Cindy Bass, Chair of Council’s Committee on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs made clear that cutting millions from Parks and Recreation was unacceptable and asked the Administration if there was “a plan to right the situation.”  She said that the lack of a back-up plan demonstrates that a commitment can be made and then withdrawn.

Councilman James Kenney was candid that it is the job of the City Council to amend the Mayor’s proposed budget.  Councilman Curtis Jones opened his remarks by suggesting an $8 million increase.  He then outlined sober statistics of serious crimes at parks and recreation centers, yet another example of why resources are needed. Councilmembers Blondell Reynolds-Brown, William Greenlee, Maria Quinones Sanchez, and Mark Squilla recognized the need for more resources and Council President Darrell Clarke acknowledged that many on Council “conceptually” agree that funds should be restored.

We launched the Campaign to Restore $8 Million.  Now we need to keep pushing…  Here’s what you can do:

•    Share this email with people you know!
•    Contact us to join one of our teams to meet with individual Councilmembers over the next few weeks
•    Stay tuned for additional actions
•    Keep the conversation going-- click on these links to comment on press coverage from:

Plan Philly:  Council Hears Parks and Recreation Budget Relief Plea
CBS Local: Philadelphia Budget Hearing Focuses on Parks Departments Changing Fortunes
Philadelphia Inquirer: Park Advocates Get Angry
Metro (article): Restore the $8 Million Parks Advocates Plead to City Council
NewsWorks: Council leaning towards more money for Philadelphia parks and recreation facilities
Philly.com: Where is parks money?


The Philadelphia Parks Alliance and dozens of allied organizations are calling on City Council and the Mayor to restore $8 Million to the Department of Parks & Recreation for FY 2013.

The Philadelphia Parks Alliance and dozens of allied organizations are calling on City Council and the Mayor to restore $8 Million to the Department of Parks & Recreation for FY 2013.

After 4 years of broken promises and 30 years of chronic underfunding, Philadelphia’s parks & recreation desperately need more resources. $8 million more for Parks and Recreation will get us back to Mayor Nutter’s first promise and to the level approved by City Council four years ago.

In 2008 park advocates supported the Mayor’s proposed “Parking Tax” increase.  The promise was that this tax was to be the dedicated source to increase park funding.  City Council approved the tax, but parks have never seen a penny of it.

Mayor Nutter’s proposed budget for the upcoming year flat lines Parks and Rec!  If left unchanged, the Mayor’s budget for FY2013 will be one of the lowest Parks & Recreation budgets in the last ten years. We’re tired of broken promises!  Enough is enough!  More than ever, we need safe, well maintained, well programmed parks and recreation.

That’s why at our recent Parks Alliance strategy meeting, over 100 park leaders from 64 organizations, from every neighborhood in the city, pledged their support for the Campaign to Restore $8 Million to the Department of Parks & Recreation. To learn more check out our Briefing Paper and Broken Promises graph.

Now It’s Time for Action --- We Need Your Help and Leadership

City Council Budget Hearing
for Department of Parks and Recreation
Tuesday, April 17
10am - Noon
City Council Chambers, Room 400, City Hall
Download Hearing Flyer


Commissioner DiBerardinis will be testifying.  We want to fill Council Chambers and make it crystal clear to City Council and the Mayor that it is time to increase the Parks and Recreation budget – not flat line it!


March 2012 Briefing Paper: Restore $8 Million to PARKS and RECREATION!

Now is the time to increase funding – not flat line it.

Thanks to Mayor Nutter & City Council, the new Department of Parks and Recreation has a visionary leader with a highly effective staff,  that get the most out of every municipal dollar while leveraging private investment and volunteer sweat equity.

In the first year of his second term, Mayor Nutter has proposed a $47.8 million operating budget for FY 2013. Although it appears to be an increase, $2.1 million of that is not new money.  It is revenue that the Department of Parks and Recreation previously received from other sources, that in FY 2013 would be dispersed through the general fund.  Therefore the current proposed budget actually flat lines the Department.

We know the City was forced to make cuts due to the recession and we’ve accepted reductions for the last four years.  But, enough is enough! After four years of broken promises and 30 years of chronic underfunding, our Parks and Recreation desperately need more resources in order to provide our citizens with safe, well-maintained, well programmed parks and recreation!

In 2008 park advocates fought to pass the Mayor’s proposed “Parking Tax” increase which was promised as a dedicated funding source to increase the budget for parks.  City Council approved the increase. The City collects the additional tax, but parks have not seen one penny of it.  Eight million dollars more for Parks and Recreation gets the Department of Parks and Recreation’s operating budget back to Mayor Nutter’s first promise and to the level approved by City Council in FY 2009. 

We Call on the Mayor and City Council to Restore $8 Million to Parks and Recreation because…

  • Well-funded parks & recreation provide safe, clean places for children & adults to play, learn, interact and succeed.
  • Exercise and outdoor time keep children healthy and strong, enhance their imagination and attention spans, decrease aggression and boost classroom performance.
  • Under-funded parks & recreation attract illegal & dangerous activity and cost millions in deferred maintenance.
  • Healthy parks promote healthy, fit people by reducing asthma, heart disease and obesity and enabling faster recovery from illness, thereby decreasing healthcare costs.
  • Parkland slows runoff, erosion and flooding. It helps keep our water & air clean and regulates summer city temperatures.
  • In their present state Philly’s parks & recreation generate more than $1 billion annually in income & savings for the city and its citizens.  Imagine how much more that could be.
  • Restoration of $8 million to the high performing Department of Parks and Recreation will pay enormous dividends in creating economic prosperity and a better quality of life for residents, businesses & visitors and will make Philadelphia a more competitive city

For more information or to get involved:
Download a copy of this Briefing Paper
Check out our Broken Promises Graph
Share our Budget Hearing Flyer

Will your organization support our campaign? Send us an Organizational Endorsement form so that we can show City Council, the Mayor, and the media that we have broad-based support to increase the Department of Parks and Recreation's budget.


NINE SPOTS OPEN - COMMISSION ON PARKS & RECREATION!

On March 30, 2012 Mayor Nutter and Council President Darrell Clarke announced that City Council is accepting applications for service on the Commission on Parks and Recreation.  The deadline to apply for one of the nine spots is May 9, 2012.

Application Process: Download theapplication found at www.phila.gov; the Office of City Council’s Chief Clerk: City Hall Room 402; Free Library branches, City recreation centers and Fairmount Park facilities.
 
Public Hearings & Who Applied: Once the application process has closed, City Council will schedule public hearings for applicants. The Parks Alliance will post the applications on our website.

How Many Commissioners Are There?  The Commission is composed of 15 members: nine appointed by Mayor Nutter from a list of no fewer than 18 and no more than 25 candidates nominated by City Council. In addition six “ex-officio” Commissionersserve by virtue of their position in city government: the Commissioners of the Departments of Parks and Recreation, Water, Streets and Public Property; the Executive Director of the City Planning Commission and the President of City Council.

Qualifications: The Commission must reflect the geographic, racial, ethnic and gender diversity within the City.  In addition to Philadelphia residents, Commissioners can be chosen from Montgomery, Bucks and Delaware Counties.

Demonstrated experience or skills relevant to the powers and duties of the Commission including but not limited to:
     •    sports, recreation and athletic programming;
     •    natural lands management and environmental protection;
     •    tourism, marketing and public relations;
     •    community leadership;
     •    historical and architectural preservation;
     •    landscaping and horticulture;
     •    fundraising.

History: In November 2008, voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter creating the new Department of Parks and Recreation and the Commission on Parks and Recreation.  Two hundred people applied to serve on the Commission and after a series of public hearings, City Council’s Committee on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, chaired by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, announced a list of 25 nominees.  From those nominees, the Mayor selected 9 people to serve on the Commission.  Their terms, which began on July 1, 2009, are scheduled to expire later this year.

For questions about the application process, contact Theresa Brunson (215) 686-3424 or Hal Fichandler (215) 686-7667. 


U.S. MAYORS ADOPT RESOLUTION TO SUPPORT URBAN PARKS

At its 79th annual conference in Baltimore on June 21, the U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution that encourages greater support for urban parks from the Obama administration, U.S. Congress, U.S. mayors and the private sector.  The resolution, which was proposed by the national urban parks advocacy organization City Parks Alliance, states that “Everyone in urban America should live within a short walk of a park that is clean, safe and vibrant.” 

The resolution calls for President Obama to:

* Include urban parks as essential elements in a comprehensive approach to urban policy and community development
* Support the adoption and implementation of the recommendations of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative
* Support full funding for the Land Water and Conservation Fund to establish and support great urban parks
* Raise awareness of the need for greater public and private investment in parks and green space to create healthy, walkable and sustainable cities

The resolution also calls on the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the nation’s Mayors to work in partnership with the president, all members of the administration and Congress to create healthy and vibrant urban parks and open spaces for the 21st Century and to engage the public and private leaders in this effort.  Click here to view the list of adopted resolutions. 

At the same meeting in Baltimore, Mayor Nutter was promoted to Vice President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.


Election 2011: At-Large City Council Candidates
Answer Questions about Parks & Recreation

AT-LARGE CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES TALK ABOUT PARKS

Prior to the primary election on May 17, 2011, the Philadelphia Parks Alliance asked candidates for City Council At-Large seats the following questions about their positions concerning Philadelphia’s parks and recreation.  Below are the responses or lack thereof for the candidates who will be running for At-Large Council seats in November:

1. What is the role of parks and recreation in a vibrant 21st Century City?

2. Funding for Philadelphia’s parks and recreation has been cut to the bone and has lagged behind other Philadelphia City Departments for decades.  In fact, Philadelphia’s park related expenditure per resident is far less than Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Boston, Cincinnati and many other American cities.  What steps would you take as a Councilmember to invest in Philadelphia’s new Department of Parks and Recreation so that it can fulfill its role and potential?

Candidate Responses to Parks Alliance Questions
Councilman Wilson Goode: Did not respond.
Councilman Bill Green:  Click here for response
Councilman William Greenlee:  Click here for response
Councilman James Kenney:  Click here for response
Joe McColgan:  Click here for response
Denny O’Brien:  Click here for response
David Oh:   Click here for response
Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown:  Click here for response
Al Taubenberger:  Click here for response
Michael Untermeyer: Unable to reach.


Constituents Demonstrate their Support for the Department of Parks and Recreation

On Wednesday, April 6, 2011 constituents from organizations and neighborhoods across the City came out in force to fill Council Chambers at the City Council Budget Hearing for the Department of Parks and Recreation. 

While it wasn’t our turn to speak, our signs called on City Council to Stop the Downward Slide of the Parks & Recreation budget so that Philadelphians and Our City Are Not Left Behind.  Click here for Parks Alliance Briefing. Click here for Budget Trends.

On April 27, 2011 former Parks Alliance Executive Director, Lauren Bornfriend and Board Member, Doris Gwaltney testified at a City Council Public Hearing.
Click here to read Lauren Bornfriend's testimony.
Click here to read Doris Gwaltney's testimony.

We will continue to keep you up to date on the Fiscal Year 2012 budget cycle.


OPEN LANDS PROTECTION Ordinance ANOTHER SUCCESS!

Since 2005, the Philadelphia Parks Alliance reform campaign has called for the creation of standards for the use and protection of parkland and resources.   On Thursday, April 14, 2011 City Council passed Amended Bill No. 110002-A, concerning the protection of parkland. Click here to read the Bill.  On Friday, April 15, Mayor Nutter signed the Bill at Belmont Plateau. 

The Parks Alliance commends Mayor Nutter, Councilmember Reynolds Brown, and the Commission on Parks and Recreation for their leadership in creating - for the first time ever – legislation to further protect Philadelphia’s parkland.  

We give special thanks to Commission President Nancy Goldenberg and Commissioner Debra Wolf Goldstein, whose enormous efforts produced an ordinance that reflects best practices while balancing the input, experience and concerns of citizens; government officials; the City’s Law Department; and key stakeholders.  

The Parks Alliance’s support of this Bill is the outcome of months of review, research and conversation with constituents, the Commission, the Administration and City Council, along with 100 hours of pro-bono legal counsel generously donated by our partner PennFuture, who provided the services of their Senior Attorney Brian Glass to work with us as needed.

Click here to read Nancy Goldenberg's remarks at the Bill signing.

We look forward to working with the Commission on the next step in this process, as they create guidance materials to address acquisition and provide direction on how to apply the ordinance.

SOME BACKGROUND

On Wednesday, March 9, 2011 City Council’s Committee on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs adopted Bill No. 110002, concerning the protection of parkland.

The Bill, which contained a minor amendment, was voted out of committee for first reading at City Council’s session March 10th. 

The leadership of Councilmembers Reynolds Brown and Clarke along with that of Mayor Nutter, laid the groundwork for this legislation.  This Bill is the outgrowth of a broad-based reform initiative that has included robust dialogue between City Council, the Administration, the Commission on Parks and Recreation, department staff, park and recreation advocates and the people of Philadelphia.

Councilmembers Reynolds Brown and O'Neill are co-sponsors of the bill that was introduced on January 27, 2011.  Click here to view Bill No. 110002.  As the bill made its way through City Council, it was subject to change.  As such, it was necessary for interested citizens' and organizations to demonstrate support for the ordinance as it stands today! On Wednesday, January 19th, the Commission on Parks and Recreation unanimously approved the Open Lands Protection Ordinance.  View footage of the meeting below.

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commission meeting 1-11 reports and approval of Open land Ordinance

 

The Parks Alliance applauds the Commission for their dedication to protecting and improving Philadelphia’s parks and recreation; for their considerable work in drafting and revising the ordinance; and for their responsiveness to addressing feedback and concerns from the public and the parks and recreation community.  View the Parks Alliance's January 20, 2011 Comments here.  The Parks Alliance was pleased to support the passage of this ordinance with the understanding that the Commission will create guidance materials to address acquisition and provide direction on how to apply the ordinance.

In September 2010, the Land Use Committee of the Commission on Parks and Recreation presented a draft of an Open Lands Protection Ordinance - an ordinance intended to protect city parkland by establishing criteria governing its disposition - and made a request for public comment and questions. (View the original draft.)  During the review period the Commission held a special meeting devoted to public comment; participated at a meeting facilitated by the Parks Alliance for 75 leaders from community, park and nonprofit organizations across the city; and solicited and responded to written and verbal input from individuals and organizations.

On November 17, 2010, the Commission released a revised version of the ordinance in response to public concerns and commentary.  (Click here to read revised draft.)

The November revised ordinance included a number of new provisions that clearly emphasized that the purpose of the ordinance is to protect parkland, and that the transfer or conversion of open space is to be the exception rather than the rule.  The revised ordinance also strengthened the public participation provisions ensuring that the public has a meaningful opportunity to be heard on any proposed transfer or conversion of parkland.  Click here for more detail on these changes.

In January 2011, the Commission on Parks and Recreation released a final version of the Open Lands Protection Ordinance, which was voted on and approved at their January 19, 2011 meeting.  Per the Commission, this updated ordinance differs from the November release in the following:

  • The addition of a point that the Commission's decision about Substitute Land will be made after consultation with Department of Parks and Rec staff.
  • Further clarification of what is required for the environmental impact analysis, a component of the Alternatives Analysis.  It now requires investigation of the impact on the following: storm water management, natural habitat, canopy preservation and noise, light and water pollution. 
  • Further clarification that any environmental requirements the City already has for land acquisition must still be fulfilled, e.g. if the Department requires a Phase I environmental  assessment, the applicant would still have to do that, in addition to the Commission’s requirements.

Background Documents:
Final Bill No 110002-A (Unanimously passed by City Council on 4/14/11 & signed by Mayor Nutter on 4/15/11)
Commission's original draft ordinance (9.21.10)
Commission's 9.22.10 briefing on the ordinance
Commission's press release on the ordinance
PPA's 10.7.10 preliminary comments on 9.21.10 draft
PPA's refined 10.26.10 comments on the Commission's original draft
PPA's 10.26.10 suggested revisions to the original draft ordinance
Commission 11.15.10 Revised Draft Ordinance
Commission 1.14.11 Final & Approved Ordinance
PPA's 1.20.11 Comments on Commission's Final & Approved Ordinance


NO Duck Boats on the Schuylkill River

The city will not award a contract for amphibious vehicle tours of the Schuylkill River, Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced on January 25, 2011.

“The City has fully reviewed Ride the Ducks proposal for the Schuylkill River and does not feel that it meets the City’s standards for operations,”  Nutter said in a written statement.  Read More.

Some Background: With the interest and concern about the possibility of Amphibious Vehicle Tours, commonly called “The Ducks” on the Lower Schuylkill, the Schuylkill River Park Alliance in association with the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Commission, The Philadelphia Parks Alliance and Logan Square Neighborhood Association hosted an open informational community forum on Wednesday, December 15, 2010.  For coverage on the event, click here.  Deputy Mayor and Managing Director Richard Negrin presented an update on the RFP process and circulated a one-pager to attendees. 

The City of Philadelphia's Request for Proposal (RFP) for "Amphibious Vehicle Tours"
Summary of the RFP
Recent news coverage on the duck boats


CITY OF PHILADELPHIA BUDGET NEWS FY 2011: MAYOR NUTTER CUTS PARKS & RECREATION

On July 14, 2010, Mayor Nutter submitted his revised Fiscal Year 2011-2015 Five Year Financial plan to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Corporation Authority (PICA).  This revised plan reflected $47 million in additional cuts to the Fiscal Year 2011 municipal operating budget from the Mayor's initial budget address delivered on March 4, 2010.
 

What does this mean for Parks & Recreation?

Not only is the $2.5 million increase that the Mayor proposed at the start of FY11 budget cycle off the table, but the Department of Parks and Recreation's operating budget was also cut by 3.8% (or $1.8 million) for Fiscal Year 2011. 

Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis relayed to us that "These cuts will have an impact on our operations and programs.  We're not sure yet of the details.  The impact will be noticeable and our ability to tend to the urban tree cover will be diminished."

This very unfortunate news comes on the heels of decades of underfunding for Philadelphia's parks and recreation.  The graph below demonstrates how the budget for parks has remained stagnant since 1970, while the City's combined budget has continued to grow.

 

*** The Parks Alliance will continue to work towards a fully funded Department of Parks and Recreation.  We are your information source on the City's Municipal budget as it relates to parks and recreation - expect to hear from us in the new year on the upcoming Fiscal Year 2012 budget cycle. *** 


MAYOR NUTTER'S BUDGET ADDRESS TO PHILADELPHIA CITY COUNCIL

Want to know how parks & recreation will be affected this budget cycle?

On Thursday morning, March 4th Mayor Nutter presented his Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Address to members of City Council.  The Mayor introduced two revenue raising measures during this address; the Keep Philly Clean Service and the Healthy Philly Initiative

If City Council had passed both of these measures as they were introduced, the projected revenue would have been enough to close the City’s budget gap AND allocate a $3.3 million operating budget increase in for Philadelphia's Parks and Recreation.  In addition, $2.5 million of the capital budget for the Department of Parks and Recreation was allocated to be used specifically for tree planting.

To watch the budget address or view the City's Complete Five-Year Plan, go to www.phila.gov/budgetUpdate


PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSIONER MICHAEL DIBERARDINIS ANNOUNCES DEPARTMENT OPERATIONAL IMPERATIVES

Using the feedback from the Department of Parks and Recreation Fall 2009 community meetings, the below "Operational Imperatives" have been developed.  These are identified as essential standards to which the Department's daily activities will aspire and adhere. 

1.  SAFETY
All of our facilities, trail, parks and other amenities must be physically safe but also feel safe to all participants and staff.

2.  CLEAN, ATTRACTIVE AND FULLY FUNCTIONAL FACILITIES
Our buildings, fields and parks, along with all of our other public assets, must be clean and welcoming. All assets must also be maintained in optimum condition for ready use by individuals and groups. 

3.  PROGRAMS FOR ALL
While we will make significant investments in youth development programming, it is incumbent upon us to provide enriching, relevant and accessible activities for people of all ages and interests. 

4.  CARE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
With the new department responsible for 13% of Philadelphia’s land mass, it is of the utmost importance to the city’s present and future that we take the appropriate actions to preserve and sustain the city’s green space.  This holds true for the large wooded areas of the parkland as well as for neighborhood parks and playgrounds. 

The Department of Parks and Recreation continues to advance the merger process.  At the end of calendar year 2009, the Department submitted it's first-ever combined budget for review.  Moving forward, there will be more opportunities for community input.  In the meantime, you may contact the Department with feedback and ideas by emailing merger.feedback@phila.gov.

The Philadelphia Parks Alliance will continue to keep you updated as this process moves forward. 


THANKS TO ALL WHO JOINED THE PARKS ALLIANCE
for the Urban Sustainability Forum

on Thursday, July 16th from 6:00 – 8:30 pm
at the Academy of Natural Sciences
for the Urban Sustainability Forum,

Parkland Use and Protection: Striking the Right Balance.

The Parks Alliance, our partners the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and PennFuture, and guests looked to advance the discussion and thinking about parkland use in Philadelphia. 

For an printable event flyer click here.


MAYOR NUTTER ANNOUNCES THE NEW COMMISSION ON PARKS AND RECREATION

Commissioners with Mayor Nutter, Mander Playground July 2, 2009.

Commissioners with Mayor Nutter, Mander Playground July 2, 2009.

 

On July 2, 2009, Mayor Nutter announced his choices for the new Commission on Parks & Recreation and declared that this is another step forward in creating the nation's premiere parks and recreation system.  Additional remarks were made by Councilmembers Reynolds Brown and Clarke, the sponsors of the Charter referendum.   

As you know, the Charter referendum overwhelmingly supported by citizens this past November, created a transparent and open public process for the Mayor to appoint the new Commission on Parks and Recreation.  As a result, over 200 talented and passionate people applied to serve on the Commission.  Of those 200, City Council recommended 25 nominees to Mayor Nutter.  Of those 25, the Mayor chose the following nine Commissioners: 

Nancy Goldenberg
Debra Wolf Goldstein
Jeffrey Hackett
Alexander "Pete" Hoskins
Anthony Langford  (We are very sorry to report that Anthony Langford passed away in March 2011.)
Leslie Anne Miller
Carol Rice
Carlos Rodriguez
Sarah Clark Stuart


The Parks Alliance congratulates all of the new Commissioners and we look forward to working with them on our mutual goal of realizing the potential of Philadelphia's park and recreation.


PARKLAND USE AND PROTECTION

****UPDATE*****

Councilwoman Krajewski has withdrawn Bill #090380 from the City Council calendar.  Therefore, the bill was not considered by the City Planning Commission at the hearing on May 19, 2009. 


This proposed and later withdrawn legislation highlights the need for guidelines for the use and protection of park and recreation land and facilities:

Councilwoman Krajewski has introduced a bill referred to Council’s Committee on Rules, that would amend uses permitted in “Recreational Districts” which include Fairmount Park and the Department of Recreation.  Click here for bill # 090380.

Although the Councilwoman introduced the bill in an effort to resolve a longstanding issue in her district, it could have much broader implications. The Parks Alliance has expressed our opposition to the bill in communications with the Councilwoman’s staff, the leadership of Fairmount Park, the Administration and the City Planning Commission; and has scheduled a meeting with the Councilwoman. 

One of the main responsibilities of the new Commission on Parks and Recreation is to establish for the first time ever, guidelines for the use and protection of parkland:

The introduction of this bill demonstrates the dire need for guidelines for parkland use that was mandated by the park reform Charter referendum passed by the voters last November.

On July 1, 2009 the new Department of Parks and Recreation and the new Commission on Parks and Recreation will assume all of their powers and duties.  The merger of the staff and operations of the new merged department will be complete by July 1, 2010. 


REFORMS BRING NEW OPPORTUNITIES AND NEW LEADERSHIP FOR PARKS AND RECREATION

What We Need to Do Now to Protect and Revitalize
Our Parks and Recreation for the Next 100 Years

What we do in the next two years will define and shape Philadelphia’s parks and recreation system for the next 100 years.  Having spearheaded the successful campaigns that have created this defining moment, the Philadelphia Parks Alliance now seeks to help shape these reforms to ensure the success of leadership, investment, and revitalization of one of the greatest urban parks in the nation.
 
This historic opportunity to truly improve the leadership, vision and management of the park was ushered in this past November when citizens overwhelmingly voted in favor of amending the City Charter.   This Charter referendum – sponsored by Councilmembers Clarke and Reynolds Brown, and supported by Mayor Nutter, the majority of City Council and scores of park, community and business organizations and their leadership, is paving the way:

•    For the Mayor to appoint a top-talent Commissioner to lead the new Department of Parks and Recreation.

AND HE DID! On March 5th, Mayor Nutter appointed Michael DiBerardinis to be Commissioner of the new department of Parks and Recreation.
 
DiBerardinis brings exactly the kind of experience, skill and vision that the city needs to have a park and recreation system that is central to the health, economic vitality and environmental sustainability of Philadelphia and the entire region.   The Parks Alliance looks forward to partnering with Commissioner DiBerardinis in this next chapter of park improvement.

•    To create a transparent and open public process for the Mayor to appoint the new Commission on Parks and Recreation.

IT’S HAPPENING!  The reform and opening of the Commissioner application process, created a new environment in which over 200 people from all walks of life stepped up to apply to serve on the new Commission.

City Councilman Clarke, Councilwoman Reynolds Brown and the Committee on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs that she chairs held 4 public hearings at which applicants presented their qualifications.

It will be for City Council - no later than 90 days from March 9th - to nominate 25 excellent candidates with the demonstrated ability to shepard our parks and recreation through the critical next phase, and for Mayor Nutter to appoint 9 exemplary people to serve on the new Commission by July 1st.

Most applicants will not be appointed.  The Parks Alliance looks forward to reaching out to these talented and passionate advocates for our parks and recreation and to harnessing their energy and ideas as we move forward.  We also look forward to working with the new Commission.

•    To establish for the first time ever, guidelines for the use and protection of parkland.

One of the main responsibilities of the new Commission on Parks and Recreation, as mandated by the Charter referendum, will be to adopt standards and guidelines relating to the conveyance and acquisition of park and recreation land and facilities.

In July the Parks Alliance in partnership with the Pa. Horticultural Society and the Urban Sustainability Forum will convene an assembly to advance the discussion and thinking about land use.

We will bring together leaders from other cities to inform our local leaders – elected officials, park advocates, citizens, key stakeholders – on best practices and tools for land protection and use; to explore what is working and not working; and how their lessons, together with Philadelphia’s history and present situation can inform our future guidelines and possibilities.

•    To make the Mayor directly accountable for the management and revitalization of the City’s parks and recreation system.

As the lead independent watchdog organization, the Parks Alliance and its supporters will work to ensure that parks and recreation remain at the top of the mayor’s agenda, that land use guidelines are adhered to, that new revenue sources are developed, and that parks in every neighborhood improve and thrive.

•    To diversify and expand park and recreation funding.

The new leadership, new Department, supportive City Council and a Mayor who is a champion of parks, combined with our growing and well organized base of park and recreation advocates, sets up the best shot we’ve had in a long time to finally break the chronic cycle of underfunding that has plagued our treasured parks and recreation for decades.

Even in these hard economic times, the Mayor’s current budget proposal recommends no further significant cuts to parks and recreation.  While the Parks Alliance is relieved, the work of exploring new sources of funding must be at full throttle.  The Parks Alliance believes and will advocate for, investment in our parks and recreation, especially in these tough economic times.  Our parks - with their historic treasures and trails, recreation facilities and picnic areas, neighborhood parks, natural lands, playgrounds and ball fields - are essential to a thriving, healthy, beautiful, safe, and sustainable city.


April 2009

To view a printable version of this Briefing Paper, click here.


AT THE CLOSE OF THE APPLICATION PROCESS ON MONDAY, MARCH 9, 2009
OVER 200 PEOPLE HAD APPLIED TO SERVE ON
THE NEW COMMISSION ON PARKS AND RECREATION!

The appointment process continues; now watch the new process in action…

Each applicant was invited to speak and to submit supporting recommendations at one of four public hearings during March 2009. Applications have been made public and available for review in the Office of Council’s Chief Clerk (Room 402 City Hall) and are posted here (Click here to see a list of the 2012 applicants and their applications).

On June 1st, City Council's Committee on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, chaired by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, announced their list of 25 recommended candidates to serve on the Commission on Parks and Recreation.   On Thursday, June 4th, Council as a Whole reported the nominees to Mayor Nutter via Resolution.

From City Council's nominees, the Mayor will appoint 9 people to serve on the new Commission.  They will assume their duties by July 1, 2009.

The 25 nominees came from the 200 dedicated citizens who applied to serve on the new Commission - many of whom expressed their passion for the potential of Philadelphia's parks and recreation when they testified at City Council's public hearings.  For a list of the 25 nominees, click here.

 

The Philadelphia Parks Alliance applauds Mayor Nutter for appointing Michael DiBerardinis to lead the new Department of Parks and Recreation!

Click here to read the Parks Alliance letter to Mayor Nutter.

"I love this park system and I think having recreation opportunities for kids and those who are young at heart is the centerpiece of what the city is supposed to be.  I could think of no better person to do that than Mike DiBerardinis," spoken by Mayor Michael Nutter of DiBerardinis’ appointment.


TIME IS RUNNING OUT…DEPARTMENT OF PARKS & RECREATION COMMISSION APPLICATIONS DUE MARCH 9, 2009!

At a press conference in the Mayor's Reception Room at City Hall on Wed, January 28, 2009, the Mayor and Councilmembers Clarke and Reynolds Brown officially announced the launching of the Commission application process for the new Department of Parks and Recreation. The application process closed on March 9, 2009, but you can click here to read the Application, Background information and Instructions (including Qualifications & Roles and Responsibilities).

In his remarks at the press conference, Mayor Nutter emphasized the unprecedented openness and transparency of the new process.  Councilwoman Reynolds Brown noted the roles of the Daily News series "Acres of Neglect",  the Parks Alliance and park and recreation advocates in reforming the process, and agreed with the Inquirer editorial board that "nothing less than a 'stellar' Commission will do."  Councilman Clarke stressed that the new process will establish a clear line of accountability whereby City Council and the Mayor will be held responsible, and emphasized that the application process is open to all.

What will it take to be a top-notch Commissioner?
Preserving and improving our parks will require hard, entrepreneurial thinking along with the experience, flexibility and know how to get things done.  It requires a talented group of innovators with complimentary skills and backgrounds who share a vision of all that our parks and recreation can be, and the will to take the steps necessary to make it happen.  It requires the curiosity to learn about successes and best practices in other cities with similar challenges and the creativity to apply relevant lessons in Philadelphia. It means planning so that the Department is poised to leap when the economy improves. And of course, they must love parks. Click here to read more.


Why Does Funding for Parks & Recreation Matter?


How can you make your voice heard?
Click here for a printable flyer to distribute and bring to the upcoming City Council Budget Hearings.
Click here to view the schedule for hearings and opportunities for public testimony.

Did you participate in the Tight Times, Tough Choices Forums?
Click here to view coverage and video testimonials from the events.


Philadelphia’s Five Year Budget Shortfall
On January 15, 2009, Mayor Nutter announced that due to the global economic crisis, Philadelphia is facing a second budget deficit of $1 billion over five years.  The Mayor explained that balancing the five year budget as required by PICA, the state oversight board, will require a second round of cuts to be made throughout city government.

The Administration has instructed every City Department to develop budget cutting scenarios of 10%, 20% and 30%.  This, on top of the deep cuts already suffered in the fall.  Mayor Nutter says “everything is on the table”.

Budget Shortfall – “Everything is on the table.”
Mayor Nutter has said that “everything is on the table.”  Good.  The Parks Alliance believes that before another dime is cut from vital services and infrastructure – like parks and recreation, children’s services and housing, literacy and police – that we need to take a hard look at everything – red tape and inefficiencies, cars and patronage, pet projects and perks.  We need to even look at some things that made sense but no longer do.  We need to collect every dollar the city is owed. 

We believe that although the leadership and citizens of Philadelphia, like cities across the United States are facing previously unimaginable budget decisions, we also have an opportunity to make government more efficient, productive and entrepreneurial.  The Parks Alliance doesn’t believe that the budget shortfall is a reason for indispensable operating departments and the people they serve to be put in the position of competing with one another for the same dollars for essential services.

Why Philadelphia’s Urban Parks and Recreation Matter?
Parks and recreation are now at the center of political, economic and policy discussions. Leaders in health care, education and business; researchers and philanthropists now understand the unique role that thriving urban parks and recreation play in the creation of sustainable 21st century cities.

Healthy, vibrant urban parks and recreation are recognized as essential tools for community, economic, & cultural revitalization & development; healthy, fit citizens; retention and attraction of residents, businesses and tourism; protection of land and water; crime prevention; education and quality of life.

Chronic Underfunding
Fairmount Park: The Fairmount Park Commission (FPC) has been underfunded for decades, lagging significantly behind increases to the total city budget.

Adjusted for inflation the park budget is less than half of what it was 20 years ago.  In 1970 FPC had 637 full time employees. Today it has 169. 

In spring 2008, Mayor Nutter and City Council approved an increase of $2.5 million for FPC that took the budget from $13.1 to $15.6 million.  This was a major step in correcting years of underfunding.

However, faced with a $1 billion deficit over five years, in November 2008, the Mayor and City Council were forced to make drastic cuts, including a 20% ($3.1 million) cut in FPC’s budget from $15.6 to $12.5 million, essentially eliminating the gain.

It has been estimated that at least $30 million may be needed for annual operations, along with $85 million for capital repairs due to accumulated deferred maintenance. 

Budget Neglect of Fairmount Park

Dollars in millions, not adjusted for inflation, rounded to the nearest million. Comparison of Fairmount Park Budget to Total City Budget.  Source: City of Philadelphia

Dollars in millions, not adjusted for inflation, rounded to the nearest million.
Comparison of Fairmount Park Budget to Total City Budget. 
Source: City of Philadelphia

 

Philadelphia Department of Recreation:  The Philadelphia Department of Recreation (PDR) has also suffered from a dwindling budget and much deferred maintenance. In Fiscal Year 2000, it had 613 full time staff.  In Fiscal Year 2008 it had 469, with only 1 person assigned solely to PDR’s 76 parks and 40 part time Seasonal Maintenance Attendants.  The City’s November 2008 Rebalancing Plan cut PDR’s budget of $40 million by 20% ($8 million) to $32 million.

Compared with other major cities, Philadelphia ranks at the bottom in park spending.  Philadelphia spends less than half ($47 per resident) what the average ($105 per resident) spent by 19 large select cities.  Cities like San Francisco ($268 per resident) and Seattle ($242 per resident) lead the pack.

What’s the Cost of Underfunding? It’s not just about numbers. It’s about us – people.  Kids.  Families,  Congregations.  Students.  Communities.  It’s about broken and dangerous playground equipment, dumping, invasive species, basketball courts without rims and tennis courts without nets.  It’s about unusable benches and picnic areas, and serious deferred maintenance of trails, structures and historic buildings.

The Parks Alliance 2007 report “Parks in Trouble” is the outcome of citizens’ systematic inspections of one third of Philadelphia’s FPC and PDR parks.  In 92% of the parks inspected they found insufficient maintenance and decay. (See the report, including many photographs on this website at “Newsletter and Publications.”)

Thanks to the remarkable work of dedicated FPC staff, citizen volunteers, partners and friends groups, many parks shine.  But as any park staff or volunteer will tell you, parks require vigilance.  It doesn’t take long for good conditions to turn bad. The sad state of many of our parks is from underfunding and a dirth of creative solutions.

New Department of Parks and Recreation
Last November, the citizens of Philadelphia voted to combine FPC and PDR into a new Department of Parks and Recreation. This change is a big step forward in creating a strong green infrastructure with thriving parks that include vibrant open space, recreational amenities, historic structures and protected watersheds. But it won’t happen automatically.  Now is the time to seize the opportunities this reform creates.  The future of the new department depends on the ability of its leadership to creatively guide the department through these hard times so that it is positioned to leverage new opportunities as soon as the economy recovers.

Why Invest in Parks and Recreation?
The Trust for Public Land study, commissioned by the Philadelphia Parks Alliance and funded by the Lenfest Foundation, was released in June 2008.  (Download “How Much Value Does the City of Philadelphia Receive from its Park and Recreation System” on this website at “Newsletter and Publications”)

This groundbreaking study for the first time quantifies the value of Philadelphia’s parks and recreation in dollars and cents. The income and savings to the city of Philadelphia and its citizens is hundreds of millions of dollars per year, as reflected in the chart below.

the city of Philadelphia and its citizens is hundreds of millions of dollars per year, as reflected in the chart below.

The Estimated Annual Value of the Philadelphia Park and Recreation System *
Revenue Producing Factors for City Government
Tax Receipts from Increased Property Value $18,129,000
Tax Receipts from Increased Tourism Value $5,177,000
Tax Receipts from Real Estate Transfer Tax $1,137,000
Estimated Total $24,443,000
Cost Saving Factors for City Government
Stormwater Management Value $5,949,000
Air Pollution Mitigation Value $1,534,000
Community Cohesion Value $8,600,000
Estimated Total $16,083,000
Cost Saving Factors to Citizens
Direct Use Value $1,076,303,000
Health Value $69,419,000
Estimated Total $1,145,722,000
Wealth Increasing Factors to Citizens
Property Value from Park Proximity $37,887,000
Net Profit from Tourism $40,263,000
Estimated Total $78,150,000
Center for City Park Excellence, Trust for Public Land, 2008
* This summary table from errata sheet – corrected 9/08.

More investment will produce more revenue and more savings. Less investment will produce less revenue and fewer savings: Over $1 billion isn’t a bad return on investment.  And yet because of years of underfunding of parks and recreation, the city has been missing a chance to earn and save much more.

If Philadelphians already save $70 million in medical expenses by using parks - that number would rise if our parks were cleaner, safer, and stocked with amenities like bikes to rent, well marked trails to hike, water ice to slurp, and greened recreation centers for our children to enjoy inside and out.

If Philadelphia’s parks and recreation already bring in $40 million in tourist revenue - how might they perform if fully equipped with functioning restrooms, water fountains, restored historic homes, repaired picnic tables, well maintained ball fields and basketball courts and upgraded trails.

Philadelphia’s parks, woods, riverbeds and open space already provide at least $7 million worth of storm water and air pollution control each year. 

Each new tree fights asthma, cuts noise pollution, saves on air conditioning costs, reduces CO2.

Every new and improved ball field and trail fights obesity and keeps our kids fit and busy.

Every cleared streambed dries out a basement and unclogs a storm drain.

Inner-city greening lowers crime rates.

Natural urban settings reduce symptoms of attention deficit disorder in children.

Hospital patients with views of trees, recover much faster and with fewer complications.

Consider all this, and then imagine investing less in parks and recreation.  It’s unimaginable.  But it is happening.  What will it mean? 
•    Dirty and run down parks.  Short dumping.  Trash. 
•    More crime.  More vandalism.  More broken swing sets.
•    Polluted air.  Dying trees.  Basements with sewage backups.
•    The few restrooms that exist are closed. Fountains get turned off.
•    Kids and grown-ups – less healthy.  Less safe.
•    Declining property values.  Fewer tourists.  Less revenue.

It just doesn’t make sense. 

Cutting parks and recreation means less – less savings, less health, less safety, less green, less growth, less income. 

Frankly, we can’t afford it.

**In addition the Administration will be presenting information at PhillyStat Sessions with administration officials and experts. Click here to learn more.**

February 2009

To view a printable version of this Briefing Paper, click here.


PHILADELPHIA PARKS ALLIANCE VICTORIES AND ACTION PLAN TO REFORM AND REVITALIZE OUR PARKS


 A "YES" Vote for PARKS! 

The citizens of Philadelphia overwhelmingly said YES to parks on November 4, 2008 --- with 73% of voters approving the Charter referendum to reform the city’s park and recreation system. 

Spearheaded by the Parks Alliance, this referendum was born out of several years of vigorous study and dialogue that included park users and residents from all over the city, community and business organizations, national experts, and government officials.  The goal - improve parks and recreation for every citizen in every neighborhood across Philadelphia.

Ultimately the Charter referendum passed, thanks to the support and leadership of Mayor Michael Nutter; City Council, particularly Councilmembers Clarke and Reynolds Brown who authored the legislation; the Next Great City coalition; the Committee of Seventy; dozens of park friends groups and community organizations; and the editorial endorsement of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News.
 
What does approval of the Charter change mean?  It paves the way to:

  • Create a new unified Department of Parks and Recreation by combining Fairmount Park and the Department of Recreation.  Allows the Mayor to attract top-talent to the new position of Commissioner of Parks and Recreation.
  • Open up park governance and make it more transparent, with the appointment of a new Parks and Recreation Commission – to be selected in public and appointed by the Mayor.
  • Establish for the first time ever, guidelines for parkland protection.
  • Make the Mayor directly accountable for the management and revitalization of the City’s parks and recreation system.

In These Difficult Economic Times We Need These Reforms More Than Ever

Now is the time to seize on the new opportunities that this reform creates.  Especially in these economically challenging times, our parks and recreation must be at the strategic center of the health and vibrancy of our city.  A strong green infrastructure with revitalized parks - including open space, historic structures, recreational amenities and protected watersheds will position Philadelphia to thrive as a sustainable city in the 21st century. 

The Parks Alliance believes that the Charter change victory is a huge step forward in making this happen.  But it won’t happen automatically.  To do this, we need visionary and accountable leadership, effective partnerships among key stakeholders, strong and modern land use policies, expanded investment, and a growing base of citizens organized and focused on parks.

The Parks Alliance is committed to working together to create new opportunities for collaboration and partnership, to expand and diversify funding, to hold our public officials accountable for the effective and successful implementation of these reforms, and to continue to build an increasingly powerful and empowered constituency of advocates and supporters.  

What’s Next?

Governance & Leadership
1.    Mayor Nutter appoints a new Parks and Recreation Commissioner.
The Parks Alliance expects that with a newly unified Parks and Recreation Department the City will recruit a top-flight Parks and Recreation Commissioner to lead the new department. 

2.    Effective Merger of Recreation Department and Fairmount Park Commission into one new combined department.
On July 1, 2009 the new Department of Parks and Recreation and the new Commission on Parks and Recreation will assume all of their powers and duties.  The merger of the staff and operations will be completed no later than July 1, 2010.  This makes it all the more important that Mayor Nutter appoint the new Parks and Recreation Commissioner as soon as possible.

3.    Appointment of Members of a New Parks and Recreation Commission.
The current Fairmount Park Commission, appointed by Court of Common Pleas Judges in June 2007, will serve until July 2009. Commissioners may apply to serve on the new Commission.

The new Commission will be composed of 15 members, 6 of whom will be ex-officios: the Commissioners of the Parks and Recreation, Water, Streets and Public Property departments; the City Council President; and the Executive Director of the City Planning Commission.

No later than February 1, 2009, City Council will make a public call soliciting Commissioner nominees for the remaining 9 positions.  The application period will be open for at least 30 days, after which City Council will hold a public hearing.  Within 90 days after the close of applications, City Council will forward between 18 and 25 nominations to the Mayor who will make the appointments.

The Parks Alliance will hold City Council and Mayor Nutter accountable to ensure that an open and transparent process is implemented, that the best possible candidates with a diverse range of experience and qualifications apply, and that the most qualified people become Commissioners. 

Protection of Parkland
1.    First Ever Land Use Guidelines.
The newly established Parks and Recreation Commission will for the first-time ever establish standards to protect parkland, including guidelines for the acquisition, lease, sale and development of land and resources.  Under the former system, land deals involving parks have been done on an ad hoc basis, often with limited or no public input. 

2.    Parks Alliance To Host Major Convening.
The Philadelphia Parks Alliance will sponsor a major convening of national experts, government officials, citizens, park supporters and other key stakeholders to explore in depth the opportunities that Philadelphia has in this new and historic moment.  The Parks Alliance’s purpose is to ensure that key constituents are engaged, and that best practices around the nation are considered, with the ultimate goal of developing the best and strongest land use guidelines to protect parkland for generations to come.

Park Funding
1.    Budget Increases … Budget Cuts.
In May 2008, Mayor Nutter proposed and City Council approved the most significant increase in funding for Fairmount Park in decades.  The $2.5 million increase took the operating budget from $13.1 million in FY 2008 to $15.6 million in FY 2009.

Confronted with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression - facing a deficit of $108 million in this fiscal year and over $1 billion gap over the next 5 years – Mayor Nutter in November announced drastic budget cuts impacting all departments.

The bad news is that Mayor Nutter reduced the park budget by $3.1 million.  However, the Mayor has publicly committed to not eliminate the budget increase, but rather to defer it until FY 2011. 

The good news is that the historic increase the park received in spring 2008 helped protect the Park from even deeper cuts.  However, the Parks Alliance and our supporters are acutely aware that the Park has been so chronically underfunded for decades that any budget reduction is a major setback.  Therefore, the Parks Alliance will hold the Mayor accountable for the re-instatement of the budget increase.

2.    Diversify Funding.
The Parks Alliance continues to believe, as we did before the current economic crisis, that funding for Philadelphia’s parks must be diversified.  Rather than fight for municipal funding that is scarce and getting scarcer,  the Parks Alliance is committed to advocating for new sources of revenue; creative public - private partnerships; federal funding for park infrastructure improvements and green jobs. 
 
In June 2008, the Parks Alliance released the results of the groundbreaking Trust for Public Land study funded by The Lenfest Foundation, which for the first time ever quantifies the economic value Philadelphia receives from its parks and recreation.  It’s huge – over a billion dollars annually!  

We now know in dollars and cents why it makes sense to invest in Philadelphia’s parks and have quantified what we have always known – that our parks and recreation systems are an essential part of the economic engine that revitalizes and shapes our neighborhoods and city. 

The Parks Alliance believes and will advocate for investment in our parks and recreation, especially in these tough economic times.  Our parks - with their historic treasures and trails, recreation facilities and picnic areas, neighborhood parks, natural lands, playgrounds and ball fields - are essential to a thriving, healthy, beautiful, safe, and sustainable city.

December 2008

To view a printable version of this Briefing Paper, click here.


November 4th was a great day for the parks of Philadelphia!

An overwhelming majority - 73% - of voters yesterday approved the Charter amendment to reform Philadelphia's parks and recreation.

Fundamentally, the goal of this reform is to improve parks and recreation for every citizen in every neighborhood across Philadelphia. The Charter change paves the way by:

  • Creating a new unified Department of Parks and Recreation by combining Fairmount Park and the Department of Recreation.
  • Opening up and making more transparent park governance - with increased citizen participation.
  • Establishing guidelines for parkland protection and direct Mayoral accountability.

Philadelphians have once again demonstrated their passion for our city's parks and recreation.  Together, we have taken the considerable first step of building the foundation for a first class park system.  Much work lies ahead.

Now is the time to seize on the new opportunities that this reform creates.  Even in these economically challenging times, the Parks Alliance believes that our parks and recreation must be at the strategic center of the health and vibrancy of our city.   A strong green infrastructure will position Philadelphia to thrive as a sustainable city in the 21st century.

It is notable that late on election night 100,000 people gathered in Chicago's Grant Park for the historic acceptance speech of President Elect Barack Obama.  Urban parks are where people come together across our nation to celebrate and to mourn, to compete and to entertain. Thriving urban parks are our living rooms, back yards, theatres and neighborhood piazzas.  The recently released Trust for Public Land study quantified what we have always known - that our parks and recreation systems are an essential part of the economic engine that revitalizes and shapes our communities and city.  Philadelphia's parks and recreation earn and save our city and our citizens over a billion dollars a year. 

Today we celebrate.  We celebrate the outcome of more than 3 years of vigorous study and dialogue among citizens, park and community organizations, government, and experts. 

Today, we thank the devoted men and women of Fairmount Park and the Department of Recreation who work year in and year out to preserve and maintain our parks and recreation facilities.  We thank the Park Commissioners for their years of dedicated service on behalf of our parks.

Today, we recognize the leadership of City Councilmembers Clarke and Reynolds Brown, the sponsors of the reform legislation that led to this Charter change.  They have worked with the Parks Alliance and advocates for years through some very challenging times to make these reforms.

Today, we applaud Mayor Nutter who has made Philadelphia's parks a priority in his administration after decades of underfunding and neglect.  Mayor Nutter has pledged to "expand the resources and extend the reach of what the parks and recreation can do for Philadelphia" and to "create the best park system, not just in the nation, but in the world."

And today, the Parks Alliance renews its pledge to work with Mayor Nutter, City Council, Fairmount Park and Department of Recreation leadership, state and federal officials, park, community, and organizations, and every resident in this city who loves parks and wants to make them better.  We know that Philadelphia and all American cities face challenges ahead.  The Parks Alliance is committed to working together to expand and diversify funding, to create new opportunities for collaboration and partnership, to hold our public officials accountable for the effective and successful implementation of these reforms, and to continue to build an increasingly powerful and empowered constituency of advocates and supporters. 
 


Why Vote "YES" on the Charter Change Referendum On Parks November 4?

1.  To Protect Park Land:  A newly established "Parks and Recreation Commission" will for the first-time ever establish guidelines for the acquisition, lease, sale and development of land and resources, including a process for community input.  Currently land deals are dealt with on an ad hoc basis often to the exclusion of or with limited public input. 

2.  Create an Open and Transparent Process to Appoint Park Commissioners:  The Board of Judges will no longer appoint commissioners in private.   Again, for the first time, there will be an open process with public hearings to nominate qualified candidates, with related expertise.  The Mayor will make final appointments.

3.  Improve Park and Recreation System:  A unified system will create new opportunities to revitalize and invest in one of Philadelphia's most precious, but neglected assets - its watershed and neighborhood parks, recreation facilities, and historic treasures.  Most cities in America, including those with similar assets, have a combined Parks and Recreation department.  In this merger, the two departments will have the opportunity to build on their unique and shared strengths, find new areas of synergy, and coordinate efforts to maximize the intersection of health, recreation, ecology, public safety, historic preservation, youth development, education, and neighborhood revitalization. 

4. Expand Funding:  As part of an overall reform package, Mayor Nutter and City Council have just approved the largest increase in park funding in decades - a significant first step toward full funding.  With increased mayoral accountability and leadership, new and diverse funding sources will be developed. 

 

 

More To Consider...

...The New Commission will Establish Guidelines for Land Protection:  Disposition of parkland must be approved by City Council.  This has always been true and will continue to be true with the Charter change.  The difference is that the first charge of the new Parks and Recreation Commission will be to establish policies for use of land and assets - that will be guided by community input.  City Government will for the first time be held accountable to these guidelines.

...The Parks Alliance Supports Consolidation:  Three years ago, the Philadelphia Parks Alliance opposed a proposal to merge Fairmount Park and the Recreation Department for two reasons. The first is that it was perceived to be a cost cutting strategy.  This time it's different.  In May 2008, Mayor Nutter proposed, and City Council approved, the most significant increase in funding for Fairmount Park in decades.  The Department of Recreation also received new resources.  Mayor Nutter has proposed a historic 46% increase for Fairmount Park over the next 5 years.

The second reason the Parks Alliance opposed the merger in 2005 is that there was little to no discussion with key stakeholders or the public.  Since then, the Parks Alliance and its partners have facilitated a vigorous ongoing dialogue with experts, citizens and government officials. 

This merger is not about cost cutting, nor about secrecy.  It is about increased accountability and transparency, more public input, better management, and ultimately cleaner, greener and safer parks and recreation facilities. 

...Along with Fairmount Park, the Department of Recreation Currently Manages Some of the City's Best Parks:  The talent, dedication and passion of the leadership and staff at Fairmount Park is well known and highly regarded.   Perhaps less known, is the extensive expertise the Department of Recreation has in park revitalization.  No stranger to parks, the Department of Recreation, currently manages 76 of Philadelphia's neighborhood parks.  Over the past 15 years, Philadelphia Green has partnered with the Department of Recreation and community leaders on a program that is a national model. In recent years they have expanded this partnership to include Fairmount Park.

...Decades of Budget Neglect:  Fairmount Park has suffered from decades of budget neglect, in spite of the heroic work of dedicated and hard working staff and the tireless commitment of many park commissioners.  In fact, while all other city departments have more resources, Fairmount Park's budget, adjusted for inflation, is less that half of what it was twenty years ago.  Many people believe that the Fairmount Park Commission, in the name of "independence," has in fact been marginalized.  Historically, mayor after mayor has ignored the Park - being neither responsible nor accountable for its maintenance and funding. 

The chart below graphically illustrates the discrepancy between funding for Fairmount Park and all other City departments and why Philadelphia's Mayor should have more authority and responsibility for the City's parks.

Dollars in millions, not adjusted for inflation, rounded to the nearest million. Comparison of Fairmount Park Budget with Total City Budget. Source: City of Philadelphia

Dollars in millions, not adjusted for inflation, rounded to the nearest million. Comparison of Fairmount Park Budget with Total City Budget. Source: City of Philadelphia

 

The deterioration of Philadelphia's parks has been well documented.  Most recently in May 2007, the Parks Alliance released its report, "Parks in Trouble", which documents the results of citizen inspections of one third of the city's parks.  The Daily News exposed chronic underfunding and poor park conditions in their "Acres of Neglect" series in 2001.

With this Charter change, Philadelphia's Mayors will be held directly responsible for the condition of our parks.  Funders who have been unwilling to invest in the current system will be more likely to invest in a reformed agency.  The role of citizen and advocacy organizations like the Parks Alliance is now and will remain critical to the improvement and revitalization of our parks and recreation system.  That's the nature of our democracy.

...100's of Million of Dollars in Economic Value:  Ironically, Philadelphia's park and recreation system generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic value.  In a recent groundbreaking study commissioned by the Philadelphia Parks Alliance - "How Much Value Does the City of Philadelphia Receive from its Park and Recreation System?" - The Trust for Public Land quantified in dollars and cents the wealth, revenue and cost savings generated by Philadelphia’s parks and recreation resources.  It's enormous.  It's over a billion dollars.  Yes, that's billion with a "b".  If this is the value from a neglected, underfunded asset, imagine if we begin to invest in our parks and facilities in new and strategic ways!

...Reform Now:  The Parks Alliance believes that the state of Philadelphia's parks is not good enough - and we will not settle for less.  We know that when our parks and recreation areas are run down and littered, dark and dreary; our kids are less healthy, happy and safe; our communities suffer; and our city is weaker.  We also know that when our parks and recreation amenities are well funded and well tended, our children play and grow healthy.  They learn about bugs and water and one another.  Families picnic and hike and teenagers bike and play ball.   Our neighborhoods are revitalized and our overall quality of life is substantially improved.  Our parks and recreation facilities are the center of our communities. That's why we need them to be safe, beautiful, clean and green.

There is no better time to undertake fundamental reform and reorganization of Philadelphia's Park and Recreation system.  Now is the time - with the confidence and competence of a Mayor who has made this issue a priority.  Thanks to the leadership of Council members Clarke and Reynolds, City Council approved park reform legislation last spring. In June, at a press conference to release the Parks Alliance and Trust for Public Land study, Mayor Nutter declared: "Now we are working together to expand the resources and extend the reach of what the parks and recreation can do for Philadelphia... I will create the best park system, not just in the nation, but in the world."

Mayor Nutter has put a down payment on this commitment with the largest increase in park funding of any mayor in years.  He has publicly committed to make our city the greenest and most sustainable.  He is committed to establishing policies and practices that will create more effective management of parks and recreation and that will guide future administrations by establishing new practices and precedents; thus laying the groundwork for investment in a first class system for a first class sustainable city. 

The Parks Alliance, with an ever-expanding base of people and organizations, will remain steadfast and independent in holding this mayor and future mayors accountable for these reforms; and to ensure that every park, in every neighborhood is cleaner, greener and safer and that the entire city and region benefit from one of Philadelphia's most significant assets.  


PARKS CHARTER CHANGE OVERWHELMINGLY ENDORSED

A "YES" vote on the parks reform ballot question for Tuesday's election has been overwhelmingly endorsed by key environmental and good government groups as well as Philadelphia's two major daily newspapers. Approval of the referendum would make the parks more accountable to the city's elected officials and combine Fairmount Park and the City Recreation Department. The change would for the first time establish formal criteria for making any major change to existing parkland.

Three influential and diverse citizen's groups have publicly endorsed this change:

  • The Philadelphia Parks Alliance, the primary advocate and education resource for parks in Philadelphia, representing citizens & local parks support groups. Click here to learn more.
     
  • The Committee of Seventy, a longstanding nonprofit group that has worked to improve Philadelphia government for more than 100 years. Click here for Zach Stalberg Letter of Support.
     
  • Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future including a majority of Next Great City Coalition, with extensive membership advocating policies that enhance Philadelphia's environmental quality, strengthen neighborhoods and increase economic competitiveness. Click here for Christine Knapp's Opinion in Daily News.


In addition the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News editorial boards recommended a "YES" vote on the ballot question.

Click to read the following opinions and editorials:
- Philadelphia Parks Alliance Opinion in Philadelphia Inquirer Oct. 30
- Daily News Oct. 29
- Philadelphia Inquirer Oct. 28
- Daily News Oct. 27

 

-The Administration's chart showing the provisions of the proposed Charter Change.

 


READ ABOUT WHAT HAS LED TO THIS PIVOTAL MOMENT IN THE REFORM OF PHILADELPHIA'S PARKS!

Campaign to Reform and Revitalize Our Parks

We have much to celebrate! 

New Funding!  In May, Mayor Nutter proposed and City Council approved the most significant increase in funding for Fairmount Park in decades.  The Department of Recreation also received new resources.  In addition Mayor Nutter has proposed a 46% increase for Fairmount Park over the next 5 years. These increases are a great start to signify a new day after 30 years of flat-lined budgets for Philadelphia’s parks.

Economic Value of Parks and Recreation!  On June 11, the Parks Alliance released the results of the groundbreaking Trust for Public Land study funded by the LenFest Foundation, which for the first time ever quantifies the economic value Philadelphia receives from its parks and recreation.  It’s huge – hundreds of millions of dollars!    We’ve put in dollars and cents why it makes sense to invest in Philadelphia’s parks.  This report is a major contribution to our collective efforts and those of the new administration to create a clean, green and sustainable city.

Governance and Management Reform!  Then on June 19, City Council approved legislation that puts a referendum to change the city charter on the November 4th ballot.  If approved by voters two major reforms will happen.  First, the governance of Fairmount Park will change to provide an open and transparent appointment process for qualified commissioners, that will for the first time charge those commissioners with creating guidelines for the acquisition, lease, sale and development of land and resources.  Second, it will create a unified parks and recreation system that will be managed by and accountable to the Mayor.  These reforms reflect principles the Parks Alliance has been working toward during the last 3 years of thoughtful and open dialogue with stakeholders, citizens, experts and government officials.  

We still have much to do!

Pass Charter Change Referendum on Nov. 4th!
To help voters understand how and why the charter change will help our Parks and Recreation system, the Parks Alliance is hosting:

Citizens’ Assembly on Park Reform
With Mayor Nutter
Monday, October 20th, 6 – 7:30pm
Friends Select School, 1651 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Expand Support for Parks and Recreation!
To ensure that the Mayor and Newly Formed Parks and Recreation Commission develop strong guidelines to protect park land and assets, fully fund the parks, and help make Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation System the best in the nation.         


Vote YES for PARKS!

On November 4th voters will be asked to consider the following Ballot Question (Bill # 080169):
Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to merge the powers and duties of the Fairmount Park Commission and the Department of Recreation into a newly created Department of Parks and Recreation, to establish a new Commission on Parks and Recreation and to provide for its powers and duties?

This Charter Change will: 

… Protect Park Land:  A newly established “Parks and Recreation Commission” will for the first-time ever establish guidelines for the protection- acquisition, lease, sale and development of land and resources, including a process for community input and study of best practices.  Currently land deals are dealt with on an ad hoc basis often to the exclusion of or with limited public input.

… Create an Open and Transparent Process to Appoint Park Commissioners:  The Board of Judges will no longer appoint commissioners in private.   Again, for the first time, there will be an open process with public hearings to nominate qualified candidates, with related expertise.  The Mayor will make final appointments.

… Improve Park and Recreation System:  A unified system will create new opportunities to revitalize and invest in one of Philadelphia’s most precious, but neglected assets – its watershed and neighborhood parks, recreation facilities, and historic treasures.  Most cities in America, including those with similar assets, have a combined Parks and Recreation department. 

… Expand Funding:  As part of an overall reform package, Mayor Nutter and City Council have just approved the largest increase in park funding in decades – a significant first step toward full funding.  With increased mayoral accountability and leadership, new and diverse funding sources will be developed. 

Philadelphia Parks Alliance urges you to Vote YES on this ballot question!

Vote YES for PARKS!

(click here for our double-sided Vote YES flyer)


VICTORY FOR OUR PARKS !!!

Another huge step forward in our campaign to revitalize Philadelphia's parks!
On June 19, 2008, City Council approved legislation introduced by Councilmembers Clarke and Reynolds Brown paving the way to change the City Charter to finally reform the governance and management of the city's park and recreation system.   It now goes to voters for approval on the November ballot. 

This legislation will reform Philadelphia's parks and recreation system in two fundamental ways, both of which, the Parks Alliance supports. First, it changes the governance of Fairmount Park by providing an open and transparent appointment process for commissioners and focuses the newly formed Commission on Parks and Recreation on policy. Second, this legislation creates a unified parks and recreation system that will be managed by and accountable to the Mayor.

History has clearly demonstrated that a Park Commission disconnected to the Mayor's chain of command is a recipe for underfunding, and hence the neglect of our parks. No matter how dedicated the individual Commissioners of Fairmount Park have been. No matter how hard the devoted, long-diminishing parks staff has worked. The fatal flaw of disconnected governance has been cruel to our parks and people who rely on them. Currently Philadelphia is the only major city in the nation to have two separate systems. After years of underfunding and deterioration, we believe this legislation gives us the opportunity to be strong, responsible stewards of one of Philadelphia's greatest treasures and one of the nation's oldest and largest park and recreation systems - over 10,000 acres of parks, ball fields and gardens, hundreds of rec centers, historic homes, bridges and fountains.

 

Philadelphia has a long history of protecting its watersheds, open space and parks. We believe that this legislation will honor and expand upon that tradition in a more efficient, inclusive and transparent way. The new Commission on Parks and Recreation will have the power and the responsibility to set forth guidelines and policies for the lease, sale, acquisition and development of park and recreation land and assets. These guidelines are the standards by which the Mayor and City Council will make decisions about parkland and assets. In addition, the new Commission on Parks and Recreation will interpret the policies they create and make recommendations to City Council concerning specific projects.

 

Three years ago, the Parks Alliance opposed legislation to merge Fairmount Park and the Recreation Department. At the time we perceived the proposed change as a cost cutting strategy. Today, the Philadelphia Parks Alliance supports the creation of one unified Department of Parks and Recreation. Much has changed. Council's approval of $4 million new dollars for parks and recreation is evidence that it is not about cost cutting. Mayor Nutter has assured the Parks Alliance and its many supporters that implementation of the merger would be done thoughtfully and strategically. That the merger would result in more effective and efficient services and programs - ultimately better parks and recreation. We at the Parks Alliance have every intention of holding the Mayor to his word. We are confident that consolidation will mean more for all, not less for both. Click here for the Administration's "Principles for the Merger of Parks and Recreation."

For years the Parks Alliance has been at the forefront of an effort to revitalize our parks - to fully fund them, reform the governance of Fairmount Park and improve the management of all parks. We believe that this legislation, thanks to the extraordinary leadership of the City Council and Mayor represents progress on all fronts.

The Philadelphia Parks Alliance is especially grateful for the leadership and diligence of the bill's authors Councilmembers Clarke and Reynolds Brown and Mayor Nutter.  We thank the heroic park staff for their years of hard work day in and day out in spite of many challenges, and those Commissioners who care so much about protecting our park land. And we thank each and every one of you who have been supporting this effort every step of the way. Congratulations!!!

Click here for the Inquirer's Editorial on June 12, 2008.

Click here for Jeff Shields article in the Inquirer on June 20, 2008.


ON THE CUSP OF ANOTHER VICTORY!

On Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 after a public hearing, amended legislation that reflects the principles we have been working toward for a long time was voted out of City Council's Committee of Law and Government.  Click here to read the testimony of the Parks Alliance and the testimony of Donald F. Schwarz, Deputy Mayor of Health and Opportunity.

The Parks Alliance thanks the sponsors of the bill, Councilman Darrell Clarke and Councilwoman Reynolds Brown; Mayor Nutter; senior administration and park and recreation staff; and you the citizens and stakeholders for our parks who have participated in a thoughtful, and open dialog.

While the Parks Alliance has supported other bills that called for reforming the structure of the Fairmount Park Commission we had opposed previous legislation that called for consolidation of the Fairmount Park Commission and the Department of Recreation, because it was perceived as a cost cutting measure, rather than as a strategy to expand investment

THE PARKS ALLIANCE BELIEVES THINGS HAVE CHANGED:
The Mayor and City Council approved the largest increase in park funding in decades as well as an increase of $1.5 million for the Recreation Department this year. Mayor Nutter has committed to the Parks Alliance that this consolidation is about improving both departments with more for all, rather than less for both. The Mayor is well aware that the success of the merger will be determined by the operational implementation, and is preparing an outline of the principals that will guide such a merger, should the charter be changed.

The amended legislation voted out of committee today changes the governance of Fairmount Park and makes the Mayor directly accountable for its stewardship.

It gives the new Commission of Parks and Recreation the power and responsibility to set forth guidelines and policies for the lease, sale, acquisition and development of park and recreation land and assets. And charges the Commission with submitting recommendations to the Mayor and City Council concerning specific land use projects.

It reforms the governance of the park whereby Commissioners are appointed in an open process, based on set qualifications.


Funding of Phila's Parks Returns: Huge Economic Contribution to City

After applauding the leadership and work of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance, Mayor Nutter took his long standing commitment to the parks one step further and said: “I will create the best park system, not just in the nation, but in the world”. “It’s a billion dollar enterprise!” declared Mayor Michael Nutter of the total estimated economic value of Philadelphia’s park and recreation system.

On Monday, June 9 2008 the Philadelphia Parks Alliance released a groundbreaking study with the Mayor at City Hall.  Over 100 top city officials, reporters and park advocates filled the Mayor’s reception room, including Mayor Nutter, Deputy Mayor Donald Schwarz, Fairmount Park Director Mark Focht, Recreation Commissioner Susan Slawson, Director of the Office of Sustainability Mark Alan Hughes, Senior Advisor Pauline Abernathy, and 4th District City Councilmember Curtis Jones. 

“How Much Value Does the City of Philadelphia Receive from its Park and Recreation System?” was commissioned by the Philadelphia Parks Alliance, funded by The Lenfest Foundation, and conducted by the nationally renowned Trust for Public Land.  

Peter Harnik,
the author of the study presented the key findings and methodology.  The highlights are that the economic benefit to the city and its citizens is enormous.  The Trust for Public Land measured seven distinct attributes of Philadelphia vast park and recreation system. 

Click here to read and download the report.

Pete Hoskins, Board President of the Parks Alliance expressed our deepest appreciation for the Mayor’s leadership. Pete recognized that the Mayor has fulfilled his promise to increase park funding and has “brought his A team” to the issue of parks – something no other mayor has done.  The Parks Alliance thanked City Council for its recent approval of increased park funding and acknowledged in particular the leadership of Councilmembers Clarke and Reynolds Brown for their steadfast pursuit to improve our parks and recreation system.

Mayor Nutter announced his support of City Council legislation that would merge the Fairmount Park Commission and Recreation Department and committed to consolidate the departments in such a way as to make them both better.  He made it clear that the name and brand of Fairmount Park will continue.
   

What's Ahead:

  • “This report puts in dollars and cents why it makes sense to invest in our parks. 
  • This spring, thanks to the leadership of Mayor Nutter and City Council we took a huge step forward – with the approval of $3.5 million of new funds for parks and recreation.
  • The Parks Alliance believes that work must continue to fully fund our parks - by identifying, securing and leveraging new and diverse funding streams such as state, federal, foundation and private resources.
  • In order to raise these funds, we have to know what is needed.  We propose that the City complete a detailed inventory and cost assessment within the next 12 months.
  • None of this will happen without strong, accountable leadership.  Our hope is that the legislation to change the governance and management of the parks – if amended and approved by City Council – will pave the way for much needed reform.
  • The Parks Alliance is delighted to be working with the Mayor, City Council and all of you to do just that.”

YES!!!  WE WON!!!

On May 22nd City Council approved Mayor Nutter's proposed budget increases for Fairmount Park and the Department of Recreation.

  • Fairmount Park will have $2.5 million more in fiscal year 2009 to improve parks and plant trees.
  • The Recreation Department will increase funds to maintain its parks and improve its programs.
  • The Philadelphia Parks Alliance wants to thank City Council, Mayor Nutter and all the citizens who rallied their support for this historic increase in funding for our parks!

Campaign to Revitalize and Fully Fund City Parks

The Philadelphia Parks Alliance and its hundreds of supporters and allies applaud Mayor Michael Nutter’s leadership and commitment to revitalize and fully fund our parks.

Mayor Michael Nutter has proposed:

  • $3 million increase ($2.5 million for Fairmount Park and $500,000 for the Recreation Department) for fiscal year ’09.
  • 46% increase of the Fairmount Park budget over 5 years, from its current $13.1 million annual budget to $19.1 million.   Over 5 years $21.5 million new dollars will be invested into parks and street trees.
  • The increase would be funded through a proposed increase in the parking tax from 15% to 20%, estimated to generate an additional $16.5 million annually.  Philadelphia’s parking tax is relatively low compared to other cities and has not been increased in over 20 years.

Philadelphia’s park system suffers from decades of budget neglect.  Mayor Nutter is the first mayor in years to propose a major funding increase.  The Philadelphia Parks Alliance supports Mayor Nutter’s proposal as a great first step in finally making our park system the true treasure that it is.
City Council Members now have the opportunity to be the first City Council in years to significantly invest in our parks.  

The Philadelphia Parks  Alliance  calls  on City Council to vote YES on the proposed budget increase for Fairmount Park and Recreation Department and to approve the proposed parking tax increase as a means to fund this investment in one of our city’s greatest assets.

On April 16, 2008, the Philadelphia Parks Alliance held a Rally at City Hall with over 200 leaders from 55 organizations to support Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposed increase to park funding and call on City Council to approve it.  At the rally Mayor Nutter thanked the Parks Alliance for its leadership in this effort and pledged to continue to work to invest in and revitalize our parks.  City Councilmember Curtis Jones said “yes” he will vote for the increased park funding and parking tax.       
                                                                                                                                                                   
One year ago, the Parks Alliance launched a citywide citizens inspection of parks.  After inspecting one of every three parks in the city, the Parks Alliance held a Citizen’s Hearing in May 2007 to present its finding.  “Parks in Trouble” documented the dire conditions of too many of the city’s parks.

Philadelphia has one of the oldest and largest urban park systems in the nation.  Fairmount Park spans 9,200 acres - 11% of the entire city.  It has 63 distinct parks and the Recreation Dept. manages another 76 neighborhood parks – that's 139 parks in all.  We have hundreds of playgrounds, ball fields, and basketball courts.  There are 215 miles of hiking trails and hundreds of historic buildings. 

Most cities are green with envy.  But unfortunately many of our parks are gray with blight.  This treasure has been mistreated, neglected and under-funded for years.  Little has been invested in capital improvements for the past few years.  The Fairmount Park budget has actually decreased dramatically as other city departments have expanded or at least kept pace with inflation.  The Recreation Department resources have also declined, leaving some parks with little or no routine maintenance or improvements.

Some of our parks are wonderful.  But many, too many, have big problems.  In this time of increased youth violence our parks should be a place where teens and toddlers, parents and grandparents can go to play ball, picnic and have fun --- not places filled with trash, broken benches and falling down playgrounds.

What does the Parks Alliance propose? 

1. Fully and Adequately Fund All Philadelphia Parks

  • Expand and diversify the funding of Fairmount Park.  Estimates are as high as $50 million to fully fund the park.  The proposal is to generate and retain new revenue, find new sources of dedicated revenue and attract increased philanthropic and private investment.  Mayor Nutter’s proposed 46% increase over 5 years is a terrific start!
     
  • Increase resources to the Recreation Department to maintain and improve neighborhood parks.  Mayor Nutter’s proposed increase of $500,000 for the Recreation Department, some of which will be for seasonal maintenance is also a great first step.

 
2. Strong, Accountable, Effective Leadership.   The governance of Fairmount Park must be reformed. The Parks need strong, diverse, expert and entrepreneurial leadership selected in an open process and empowered with adequate funding.  Philadelphia has a long history of protecting its watersheds, open space and parks.  That history should be honored and expanded upon.  The Mayor should be more directly accountable for the stewardship of the City’s parks.  They need to be led and managed with an understanding of their significance for health and recreation as well as for economic development for the city and region.
 
The PARKS ALLIANCE CALLS on CITY COUNCIL to:
   1. Approve the proposed $3 million increase this year and 46% increase over 5 years.
   2. Approve the increase in parking tax as a way to fund park investment. 

For more information contact the Philadelphia Parks Alliance:
Call 215-879-8159; Email friends@philaparks.org


Mayor Nutter’s Parking Tax Proposal is Fair, Sensible and “Green”
Generating $12.5 M for Street Repairs, Fairmount Park & Tree Planting

Mayor Nutter’s proposed Fiscal Year 2009 budget calls for an increase in the parking tax from 15% to 20% which will generate approximately $16.5 million per year for long-overdue improvements in the City’s streets and parks, including:

  • $10 million for urgent street resurfacing across the City
  • $1 million for new street trees and park trees
  • $1.5 million for Fairmount Park for landscaping, maintenance and new staff –including additional Park Rangers to increase park safety

Provides for Strategic Investments in Fairmount Park

  • The Fairmount Park System is 9200 acres of park land and athletic fields –making it the largest urban park in the country
  • The Park’s current budget is less than half of what it was 20 years ago after adjusting for inflation; and staffing levels have seriously declined
  • The Mayor’s proposed budget begins to reverse decades of under-funding for this important “green asset” in our City’s portfolio by providing $16.5 million more for Fairmount Park over the next 5 years—which is a 46% increase

Provides for Strategic Investments in our Neighborhoods

  • $1 million for tree plantings will provide for 2,500-3000 new trees in our communities
  • There is currently a backlog of approximately 500 miles of street resurfacing projects throughout the City; an additional $10 million per year for the next five years will allow for approximately 325 miles of additional street resurfacing.

Responds to Citizens’ Priorities

  • 92% of Philadelphians believe environmental and infrastructure improvements are necessary to improve economic competitiveness and growth (2006 poll by PennFuture)
  • 90% of Philadelphians support increased funding for parks and infrastructure improvements (2006 poll by PennFuture)
  • A greener Philadelphia will help attract and retain residents and businesses

The Parking Tax Proposal is Fair, Sensible and “Green”

  • The Parking Tax Proposal is Fair, Sensible and “Green”:
  • The City’s parking tax rate has been at 15% since July 1, 1987
  • Our current 15% rate is very low compared to other cities:
    • Pittsburgh has a parking tax rate of 40%
    • San Francisco has a parking tax rate of 25%
  • Revenues generated will help offset the negative impact on roads and air quality from vehicular traffic
  • Encourages the use of public transit
  • Changing the rate to 20% will mean approximately an extra $1 a day for the average parking lot user

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