WHAT: If you’ve walked around the University City neighborhood in recent months, you’ve probably noticed the chain-link fencing keeping people out of the “A” section of Clark Park. In early June, the fences will come down, and this section of the park will reopen to the public.
WHERE: Clark Park is located between Baltimore and Woodland avenues and 43rd and 45th streets. The “A” section is situated between Baltimore and Chester avenues.
A MASTER PLAN: The revitalization of the north section of the park was led by the Friends of Clark Park (FOCP), a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization that supports University City’s largest public green space. According to Frank Chance, past-president of FOCP, a 2001 master plan suggested a general redesign and reworking of the entire park, including the “A” section. “There was a recognition the sidewalks were breaking up; parts of the grass were not doing very well,” says Chance.
CLARK PARK 2.0: Improvements include the widening of some sidewalks and a reconfiguring of some walkways. The paved area in the center of the park has been replaced by packed gravel. Moveable tables and chairs will also be located in that area, and new sod and grass seed have been planted. The lighting system has been completely reworked and there will be electrical outlets available for special events. The FOCP has replaced a few of the London plane trees (some of which are nearing or at the end of their lifespan) as well as the invasive Norway maples with a more diverse mix of trees, says Brian Siano, vice president of the organization. So far, 11 trees have been planted in the “A” park, with more to come sometime this year.
MANAGE WATER: Some of the most critical improvements to the park have to do with storm water management. The space with a packed gravel surface in the center of the park allows rainwater to seep into the ground, reducing runoff and keeping puddles and muddy areas from forming.
CITY SUPPORT: The renovations were funded by the state and city. The west end of the park will also get a flower garden, courtesy of a grant from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Chance says he hopes the city’s water department will begin a catch basin project next year along 43rd Street, between Baltimore and Chester, to capture more rainwater.
SERVING THE NEIGHBORHOOD: The “A” section upgrade of the park was designed by Studio Brian Haines, which “produced a really wonderful design that takes into account how people use the park, and it also has a flexibility that’s wonderful,” says Chance. “We’ve been looking at how the people use the park for a long time. There was a clear sense that you need a civic place for people to gather.”
MORE INFO: To keep tabs on the park’s reopening—and to learn how to volunteer with the FOCP—visit their website, www.friendsofclarkpark.org.
Originally published on May 19, 2011