Every year the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department chose one park to be the “signature site” during “Love Your Park” fall-service day.

This year, the seventh annual Love Your Park event brought volunteers and media attention to Malcom X Memorial Park. This park was chosen out of over 90 parks throughout Philadelphia that all hosted different fall clean-up activities for community members, volunteers, and parks department employees to participate in last Saturday.

From planting bulbs for next spring to leaf removal, the volunteers at Love Your Park day did whatever it took to clean up their community park. Not only did these volunteers help out their communities and parks, but they also made Parks Department history: This year, Love Your Park saw more volunteers and service than it ever had before.

“Over 2000 volunteers are registered for this event, but not everyone really registers,” Lindsey Walker, the leader of the Fairmount Park Conservancy Stewardship Team, told a reporter, “the numbers are higher than they have ever been, in fact, they are doubled. The program is growing!”

This record turnout has brought media and political attention to this event, especially to Malcom X Memorial Park. The sponsors for the event gathered at this park to aid in the clean-up, and also to hold a press conference. This year that conference was attended by Mayor Jim Keney, and news crews from major networks.

“When I look at the diversity of the folks who work together,” Mayor Keney said during the press conference, “this is really what Philadelphia looks like—should look like—and what America should look like.”

The crowd at Malcom X Memorial Park was emotional during Kenny’s speech about the benefit of diversity and the beauty of so many people coming together to work on this project.

Without the number of volunteers willing to clean up their community park, the Philadelphia Parks Department could never pull off a project of this magnitude. Lindsey Walker explained that the Department just doesn’t have “the man power to put all of the city’s parks to bed for the winter.”

One hundred and fifteen Parks Friends groups, which are small community groups of volunteers registered with the Parks Department that plan events, fund raise, and help maintain their community parks, are also growing in number and attendance. These groups are scattered around the city and play a huge part in making Love Your Park day possible.

Though no one is sure what is drawing these crowds to the aid of Philadelphia’s parks, one thing is certain: there is nowhere to go but up from here. In a recent report from the National Association of State Park Directors, they affirmed that not only Philadelphia but Pennsylvania parks as a whole have experience a recent rebound.

Based on acreage, attendance, revenue, and labor costs the Association estimates the “technical efficiency”, TE score, of individual state parks departments. They then rank the states. Pennsylvania has, in the past year, jump up from 40th to 34th place.

Not only has Pennsylvania recently jumped up in rank, but its parks departments have been in a steady incline ever since 2004. There is still quite a ways to go but Pennsylvania can pride itself in knowing it is slowly but surely improving the quality of its parks. Not just that but according to this data, Philadelphia’s parks department programs such as Love Your Park can only expect to get better with time.

This is good news because as Lindsey Walker claims, “parks are an increasingly important part of the urban environment”. Local parks such as Malcom X Memorial and many others involved in Love Your Park Day offer much more than a safe, clean space for children and adults to enjoy.  They are an essential piece of the economics of Philadelphia.

According to a summary put out by the National Recreation and Parks Society, local parks are responsible for millions of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue nationwide. In 2013 alone Pennsylvania held down 12 thousand + of these jobs and almost $600 million in revenue.

If the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation department was responsible for even a small fraction of that number, they play a large part in the economic vitality of this city. Without the economic boost provided by parks the city would be out of a lot of money and the many people employed by various parks departments would be without of jobs.

With that in mind, the Fairmount Park Conservancy, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, and city volunteers have taken the massive success of Love Your Park day and are building off of it. This time instead of a day, they are devoting a whole week to park clean up, conservation, and community building.

They will host Love Your Park Week in May of 2017 and will be expecting more record turnouts.

 

 

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