This November, Riverfront North Partnership staff was taken on a socially distanced tour of FDR park in South Philadelphia, hosted by Park Director Justin DiBerardinis. With a new masterplan and funding underway, this Olmsted designed 348-acre park will be transformed in the coming decade as a destination civic common space. With so many moving pieces and varying uses in FDR park, this trip aids our “Discover and Learn” initiative to take-away lessons from similar park spaces in an effort to enhance Riverfront North.
We started our tour off in the newly created South Philly Meadows. The closing of the public golf course and its transformation into a natural meadow is one of the first major changes to happen to the park. Due to the existing land’s sea level height and flood predictions in years to come, it only made sense to repurpose this portion of the park. The future plans call for flooding part of the area to create a wetland marsh and filling some of the other area for revenue driven recreation fields. In the immediate, the FDR team has created a family friendly nature activity area, blazed well-marked trails and left mowed areas for picnicking as well as chip and putt golfing.
Our tour then took us out to the “Lakes”, the beautiful centerpiece of the park. Future plans include better lakefront access through foliage for fishing (while still maintaining native plant biodiversity), as well as starting a recreational boating program. We made our way around the lakes to the soccer fields and parking lot that hosts various food and goods markets on a weekly basis. The FDR team is working closely with the diverse group of vendors on organization and better traffic control to keep a very busy park functional and fun for all communities.
At the far end of the park, hidden under I-95, we toured the world-famous skate park. Skaters from across the country visit this space for meetups and the self-monitored area serves as a hub for the regional skating community.
With this collaborative visit, the Riverfront North Partnership is able to walk away more knowledgeable and with more ideas about our shared struggles with water-based public park space in Philadelphia. We are so thankful to Justin and the FDR team for taking the time to show us around and answer all of our questions. Collaborative efforts like this are helping keep all of Philadelphia’s parks vibrant and green!
For more information on what is in the master plan, visit this Fairmount Park Conservancy site.