Parks and Rec talks merger, trees, recreation opportunities and money

A two-hour long meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission Wednesday began with a run-through that focused on the just completed and quite complicated task of merging the two departments, a move that Deputy Mayor Mike DiBerardinis said would make operations more dynamic and more coherent. The effort involved merging the skill trades, the grounds and maintenance functions and programatic elements of the park with the rec department.

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Read P&R merger related decisions

DiBerardinis also explained the thinking behind creating eight operating districts which will ensure geographic responsibilities for the skill trade units. The merged department has 634 employees and 30 authorized hires. There are 19 recreation centers with broadband technology – strategically located in neighborhoods with low broadband access. 

The meeting also covered:

  • The preliminary findings of the East / West Park Cultural and Recreational Opportunities Study. DiBerardinis said the 16-mile stretch of contiguous green space is the most unique urban park in America, ranging from Love Park through the manicured East and West River drives to Northwestern Avenue and the Wissahickon. The study seeks to find opportunities for a better physical connection between communites and the park; an improved user experience and a possible outdoor academy, where people could be introduced to the natural world that is all around them as well as the history of the 16-mile stretch. DeBerardinis also said the same type of study could be conducted on other city parkland, specifically, Pennypack, Tacony and Cobbs Creek.

  • Update on the Tree Program, including the Introduction of Tree Campaign Manager Erica Smith by Environment, Stewardship and Education Director Joan Blaustein. The main point of the presentation was a brief description of a recently completed tree canopy study that shows that Philadelphia’s canopy is presently at 20 percent. The goal by 2015 is to reach a canopy level of 30 percent. The Wissahickon has the highest canopy cover at 83 percent. Chinatown and North Philadelphia have the lowest, around 3 percent. The department is also working on removing 1,600 trees that have been cited as dead or diseased.

  • And committee reports, including the Land Use Committee, Debra Wolf Goldstein, Chair, which dealt with the Open Land Protection Ordinance; the Revenue Enhancement Committee, Pete Hoskins, Chair, featuring an update and  preliminary findings of  the Concession Study and budget testimony and the report from the Communications Committee, Carol Rice, Chair, featuring the PaRC Stars Recognition Award to Laila Reilly for her work at Clemente Park.

It should be noted that in April, Sara Hirschler and Reilly were selected to win a Keep Philadelphia Beautiful Award for their efforts with Clemente Park and Playground over the last few years.

In other commission news: A recent Fairmount Park Conservancy event raised $300,000.

Contact the reporter at mgolas@design.upenn.edu

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