Parks and Rec Commission faces diverse challenges

May 19, 2010

By Matt Golas
For PlanPhilly

The Parks and Recreation Commission public get-together Wednesday night in the Skyline Room of the Free Library, the new body’s third meeting, was a melange of new initiatives, committee reports, power points and challenges from concerned citizen advocates.

Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis and Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Nancy Goldenberg started things off with updates on the commission’s interaction with two master planning initiatives: Phila 2035 and Green 2015. They also weighed in on how Parks and Rec is faring in the struggle between the mayor and city council to come up with a budget that does not severely affect the operating side of this department. DiBerardinis said if council cuts the $2.5 million Nutter wants appropriated in the P&R operating budget, vendors and hiring – and thus programs – would be negatively impacted. DiBerardinis was more upbeat about the capital budget, stating that an anticipated additional $12 million would make it possible to open all operational pools and spraygrounds and keep the tree planting program on track. This just in: (On Thursday, following City Council passage of a $3.9 billion budget, Nutter announced he would cut the $2.5 million tree planting program in light of council’s failure to find additional revenue in the form of a tax on soda.) See complete list of cuts here

Leo Dignam, Deputy Director of Programs, next showed the gathering a power point that outlined the goals of the Parks and Rec Summer Camps and Programs, which cover every section of the city. Check out the website.

A series of committee reports included an update on the Land Use Committee’s work on a draft of the Land Protection Ordinance, presented by Deborah Wolf Goldstein. Wolf Goldstein said the committee hoped to have a working draft prepared in time for the full group’s fall meeting. Carol Rice of Communications said her committee conducted a brainstorming session with a diverse group of interested parties that would help point out a strategic direction for a communications plan. The Revenue Enhancement Committee is chaired by Alexander “Pete” Hoskins. He spoke briefly about working on identifying key fundraising stakeholders.

The evening’s highest drama came when Mary Tracy of SCRUB (Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight) challenged the commissioners to pay stricter attention to land transfer issues, particularly deals that involve re-deeding parks and rec property. As an example, Tracy cited what she called the recent less than transparent property transfer OK’d by city council that involved Kelly Playground in the Germantown section of the city. Commissioner Sarah Clark Stuart reiterated Tracy’s points about making the process more public and DiBerardinis strongly indicated the commission would become more involved than previous boards, eventually using its clout to legislate protection for park and rec land.

It should be noted the Kelly property transfer did go through city channels. Check out the recent Planning Commission hearing on Kelly Playground transfer to PHA.

The next commission meeting — scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 21, will also at the Central Branch of the Free Library.


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