First Test of Parkland Protection Ordinance is a Success!
Temple University Proposal to Build Boathouse on Parkland

Parks Alliance Board President Bob Thomas testifies at Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on Temple's proposal to build boathouse on parkland.  

Parks Alliance Board President Bob Thomas testifies at Parks and Recreation
Commission meeting on Temple's proposal to build boathouse on parkland.

 

 

WHAT’S THE ISSUE?

In October 2012 Temple University submitted a proposal to the Commission on Parks and Recreation to build a new boathouse in Fairmount Park along the Schuylkill River between the East Park Canoe House and the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. 

In a letter dated April 30, 2013 to Commission Chair Nancy Goldenberg, Temple University withdrew its proposal to build a new boathouse. As requested by the Commission, Temple will consider renovating the East Park Canoe House for its rowing teams.  Exploration of this option will be part of its Visualize Temple planning process. The Parks Alliance looks forward to further discussion about Temple's possible renovation of the East Park Canoe House and is pleased that Temple and the Commission have been working together toward a solution that will serve both the University and the citizens of Philadelphia.

BACKGROUND

Temple’s proposal was the first major test of Philadelphia's new Open Lands Protection Ordinance, which was drafted by the Commission on Parks and Recreation with input from the public, experts, government officials and key stakeholders; was amended and passed by City Council after public hearings; and was signed into law by Mayor Nutter in April 2011. The Commission and government officials' treatment of this case tested their resolve to strictly comply with the Ordinance. 

While the Parks Alliance did not oppose the conversion of parkland to private use by Temple for a boathouse, we believe that rigorous implementation of the Open Lands Protection Ordinance is critical to ensuring that there is no net loss of the parks, recreation and open space. The Parks Alliance had several concerns regarding the Alternatives analysis submitted by Temple and the implementation of the Ordinance to date by the Commission.  CLICK HERE TO READ FULL COMMENTS.

►Temple’s proposal to waive the unambiguous requirement of the Open Lands Protection Ordinance to provide Substitute Land is unacceptable.
►The Commission should reject the Alternative Analysis as administratively incomplete because it does not contain a description of the proposed Substitute Land.
►Temple should have met with a more diverse group of stakeholders including Friends Groups and Recreation Advisory Councils.
►The Commission should condition any approval of the Alternatives Analysis on certain commitments by Temple such as specific trail setback distance, a plan to compensate park users for tree canopy loss, and to use green infrastructure to manage storm water runoff.

On Wednesday January 16th, the Parks and Recreation Commission heard public comment onTemple University’s proposal. Temple packed the meeting with students, rowers and other supporters who testified that Temple’s rowing teams “need a home.” About 12 Park advocates, while not opposed to Temple having a boathouse, expressed deep concern over Temple’s proposal for several reasons.  A major concern was that Temple’s plan did not, as required by the Ordinance, propose substitute land to replace the public parkland where Temple wanted to build a 23,000 square foot boathouse.  Advocates also testified that Temple should have consulted with park friends groups and recreation advisory councils and considered the impact of their proposal on urban forestry.

On March 8th, the Commission on Parks & Recreation reported that it was working with Temple University to examine the feasibility of Temple renovating the East Park Canoe House instead of building a new boathouse on parkland, as Temple had originally proposed.  The Commission postponed its final recommendation to City Council until April 30th, and ultimately did not have to make a recommendation due to Temple's letter stating the decision to withdraw its proposal being sent the same day. Read the Commission's letter to Mayor Nutter and City Council.

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