The Fairmount Park Conservancy has released a new guide of Fairmount Park, titled 50 Unique Experiences in Fairmount Park. Recognizing that the 2,050-acre park can be intimidating and overwhelming, the colorful guide serves to orient and excite visitors.
The creation of the guide was part of a larger creative place-making initiative, funded by a $3 million grant awarded to the Fairmount Park Conservancy from ArtPlace America’s Community Development Investment program. There are more events and partnerships to come under this program including those that focus on strengthening connections between the historic houses in the park and the adjacent neighborhoods. According to Ellen Ryan, senior director of strategy and planning for Fairmount Park Conservancy, the map is just one effort to “address a challenge with an art-based intervention.”
In addition to mapping the geography of the park, the guide lays out the park’s various activities, amenities, and key destinations for families, youth, and adults, categorized by type (including “arts and culture,” “views and natural treasures,” and “sports and play”), season, and cost. There is also an impressive “Fairmount Park by the numbers” list as well as suggested itineraries, which show how to spend an entire day at the park.
“You could see it as a checklist to have the full Fairmount Park experience,” said Ryan. The Fairmount Park Conservancy came up with the featured experiences by asking its staff for suggestions and choosing the essential 50 from over 100 options— there’s more to discover beyond what’s shown.
“This map is considered an invitation to the park. It’s not a formally sanctioned map [by the city], so we could be choosy with the data,” said graphic designer Andee Mazzocco of Whole-Brained Design, who designed the guide in two weeks. “Notice, for example, only the three major trail loops appear on the map, when there are more than 50 miles of trails in the park.” The careful curation of features on the map was important to ensure legibility and allow readers to understand and connect with the park.
In order to encourage people to explore Fairmount Park, Mazzocco’s design needed to be experience-driven and translate the park’s vastness into accessibility—without sacrificing the unique geography of the park. She’d mapped the park multiple times in the past and was thrilled to be able to map on a larger scale. “I had the space to reveal the park’s topography, and that’s a crucial layer to see if you want to understand the park’s heritage as a working landscape, and why the landmarks are connected,” she said.
In addition to the guide, Mazzocco designed the graphics of three structures installed at The Oval, the seasonally programmed space in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The structures, which were assembled by the Public Workshop, are collectively known as the Fairmount Launch. They display Fairmount Park fun facts and historic photographs and serve as the primary place where the new guides are distributed.
“We wanted to link The Oval more explicitly to the park just beyond the art museum and invite people to experience the park through a number of lenses – history, recreation, play, art, and social gatherings,” Ryan explained.
The Fairmount Launch is the site for a series of activities related to the park, including weekly office hours with the Parks and Recreation historian and archivist. The Association for Public Art leads bike tours of Fairmount Park starting at the Fairmount Launch, as well.
These programs are all part of the Fairmount Park Conservancy’s efforts to spark interest in and conversation around Fairmount Park—and in the process, the Conservancy is learning more about the public’s perspectives on the park. All maps come with response cards that ask questions about what people like most about the park and what they’d like to change. So far, feedback has mostly touched on improving the wayfinding—to restrooms, nearby destinations, and food—in the park. This process is part of an ongoing effort to help draw communities closer to Fairmount Park.
As Ryan said, “Our fondest wish is that people come to Fairmount Park and their local parks to find civic life, to breathe, to meet with friends and family, and to understand Philadelphia’s history more.”