By Frank L. Chance
President, Friends of Clark Park
Clark Park is one of the best features of West Philadelphia. My wife and I moved into the neighborhood in 1993, just a block away from Clark Park, and one of my acquaintances advised us against the move because the park was "too dark, too quiet, and full of the wrong kind of people." But in the last few years Clark Park has become one of the busiest, safest, and best places in all of Philadelphia. The Parks and Recreation Department issues permits for events in Clark Park nearly every weekend of the summer months, and thousands of my neighbors spend time in the park. I don’t have hard data to back it up, but I estimate that, since the economy went south in 2008, Clark Park usage is up about 20 percent.
University City residents do many things in Clark Park. We shop for groceries at the Farmer’s Market, buy clothing and records at the Uhuru Flea Markets, play with our children, dogs and friends, and sometimes simply enjoy quietly reading on a bench in the shade of a big tree. We sled down the bowl in the winter, perform Shakespeare in summer, celebrate Dickens in February, hear drums and children’s stories, and compete at chess, soccer, capture-the-flag, or volleyball. We talk in the park—about the park and how to care for it, but also about politics, the state of the economy, and sometimes about how much noise or trash or traffic the last event in the park created!
But we can only enjoy these activities when Clark Park is maintained well. We need a clean, safe, beautiful park for everyone.
Some of my neighbors think that Philadelphia owns the park, that the Parks and Recreation Department administrates it, and that city workers take care of it. Most of this is true—but unfortunately, in these difficult times Philadelphia cannot do it alone. The reality is that much of the care comes from a maintenance contract managed by the University City District. In addition, our city representatives must see that our neighborhood is committed to the safety and cleanliness of the park, or else the officials can’t raise the funds required to care for it appropriately. And while Mayor Nutter’s budget proposal includes increased funding for parks, we need to be visible in our support of our parks in order for even a small increase to pass. There are simply too many other ways to spend our taxes. So, unless we actively support the park with our time, energy, and money, the city will not be able to support the park either.
Fortunately, there are many ways for our neighbors to support Clark Park and enjoy themselves at the same time. On May 13 we will present the eleventh annual Party for the Park, a benefit for the maintenance of Clark Park. The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia has kindly offered to host the party in the Wilson Center, so rain or shine we can enjoy great food, cool drinks, and hot music. The Friends of Clark Park, the University City District, and the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia invite you to join sponsors, friends and neighbors for an evening of conversation, refreshments, and fun. Funds raised from your tickets provide mowing, trash collection, pruning, mulching, and other essential services that keep the park healthy, clean, and safe. I’ll be there, and I hope you will visit http://www.toursignup.com/clarkpark or call 215-243-0555 to buy your tickets today.
See you in Clark Park!