A Powelton oasis

Powelton Park

Penn continues its commitment to improving the physical landscape of West Philadelphia with the revitalization of Saunders Park Greene, at 39th Street and Powelton Avenue, across from Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. Penn owns both the hospital and the park, and partnered with the surrounding community to give the park a facelift.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the William Penn Foundation helped bring initial improvements to the city-block-size park—including trees, tables and benches—around three years ago.

Gary Ginsberg, assistant executive director of Penn Presbyterian, says the William Penn Foundation also helped establish a long-term master plan for the park based on input from the community. Over the past year, Bank of America has provided funding to enact the master plan, with further expertise and support from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Saunders Park Neighbors Association and the People’s Emergency Center.

Ginsberg says additional improvements include a variety of trees, such as London Planes, magnolias and dogwoods, “to try to create more of an integrated appearance of flora and fauna in the park.”

New signage will welcome visitors at each of the park entrances, and two new bulletin boards will detail public notices and events for the park and the surrounding area. There are also dog stations for canine owners. Ginsberg says a dog run is possible in the future.

The community said it wanted the park to focus on passive activities, rather than athletic-type fields or playground equipment, so no basketball courts or soccer fields were added. Instead, Ginsberg says they created “a tranquil, meditative type of park where families can enjoy it.”

Sports are not banned, though. Ginsberg says those wanting to play Frisbee, throw a football or kick a soccer ball around are permitted, “but we didn’t want to necessarily promote those things. We just wanted a place where people can come and enjoy a relaxing atmosphere.”

Ginsberg says the park provides a pleasant setting for staff to use on their lunch breaks, or as a getaway from the stressors of working in a hospital. “This provides a little oasis just outside our back doorway into another world where there are beautiful trees and plantings and shade or sun,” he says. Patients’ family members can also use the park as a respite space to walk or stretch their legs.

“It’s really a nice resource,” Ginsberg says. “It’s unusual to have. It’s privately-owned land yet we make no hesitation to make this available to the community and our patients here at the hospital. Our intention is to always maintain it that way and keep it hopefully looking as nice as it looks today into the future.”

Originally published on May 21, 2009