Can you envision a Vernon Park covered with healthy green grass on which mini gardens are tended, kids play games, families gather for picnics and activities are hosted almost daily?
Those were some of the hopeful visions discussed Monday night during the Friends of Vernon Park’s committee meeting at Wired Beans Cafe.
YahNe Baker and Angela Miles are the group’s events and programs chairs. They met at the Chelten Plaza establishment with residents and community leaders interested in turning those visions into realities.
“We want to invite the community back into the park,” said Baker, who has lived in Germantown for five years. “We have a vision that includes business owners and residents hosting events inside the park throughout the entire year.”
In an effort to jumpstart these ideas, a calendar of activities has already been created. The schedule currently includes Family Fun Day, a 2nd annual flea market and an outdoor movie series.
Why hasn’t the park hosted these sorts of events in recent years?
Wired Beans Café owner Robert Wheeler, who has lived in Germantown for 37 years, suspected a combination of safety and loitering concerns are to blame.
“This type of stuff scares good people away,” he said. “Scares them away from walking their dogs or just sitting in the park.”
Wheeler, who moved his business from Mt. Airy to Germantown last year, cited anti-loitering efforts from the former neighborhood as a possible solution.
“Within a year, the people who always stood on the corners were gone and you saw an increase in [police] bike patrols,” said Wheeler. “That’s what we need done down here in Germantown.”
However, Germantown resident Robyn Tevah said the Vernon Park atmosphere “has gotten a lot better over the last two years,” and was hopeful that these ideas will bring people back.
Attendees hoped that an all-day family-fun event called “Gtown Day” will do the trick. The Germantown birthday celebration is still in the preliminary planning stages; Baker and Miles sought volunteers to join in the effort.
“I remember when Germantown celebrated its 325th birthday and there was no real celebrating going on,” Baker said. “This year, Germantown turns 330 and we want to raise as much awareness about it as possible.”
To do so, a “Countdown to Gtown Day” campaign will launch on April 6, which is six months before the date.
“If we start engaging people now, and then have a countdown in April, people will be well informed about Oct. 6,” Baker concluded.
Planning meetings are scheduled for the first Monday of each month and will be posted on the Friends of Vernon Park website.
“We want the park to be more appealing,” Miles concluded. “A hub for healthy and safe activities for the neighborhood.”