Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Plan for "The New Fairmount Park" highlights creeks, pedestrian flow

The New Fairmount Park plan presented last night by the folks at Penn Praxis in conjunction with the City of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department is exciting, if a bit ambitious. During my years as a journalist, I would have attended the event at Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse with hardwired skepticism, but while I have my concerns as to how this noble plan will be carried out, I have to say, as an outdoors fitness buff and frequent parks user, I cannot hold back my enthusiasm as I click through the interactive online PDF featuring this amazing new vision for Fairmount's East and West Parks.

Glendinning Rock Garden steps - part of planned Fairmount Park trail network?
Here are the two plan highlights that excite me the most:

1. Pedestrians in Focus: The plan calls to "tame the roads" and "connect the trails". The vision includes a linked trail system (yay!) and would aim to create pedestrian-friendly crossings along the speedy traffic thoroughfares of Kelly Drive, Martin Luther King Drive, and the Schuylkill Expressway. Traffic studies are in order, but at first glance - wow! Imagine a redesigned Interstate 76 that's lifted to allow pedestrians pass through through a natural, riparian environment from the main park areas to the river! (Of course I'd ask you to do this while trying NOT to imagine the nightmare such a redesign would cause on this already terribly congested highway.) It's nice to think in what-ifs, but at present that kind of stuff is for the long term vision - personally, I'd be psyched even if they can only achieve putting in signed crosswalks with flashers at key points along Kelly Drive and open the rail bridge to link East and West Parks at the Boxers Trail over the short and medium terms.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter speaks to Fairmount Park constituents 
2. Watershed in Focus: The New Fairmount Park vision intends to highlight the existing natural features of East and West parks - in particular the 16 creeks that filter through them on their way to the Schuylkill River, the primary water feature around which the parks were formed. The Fairmount is a unique park in that it was built around a need to protect the city's water - as such it's a "watershed park". Trails would lead folks in nearby communities to the river by linking providing trail access along these protected riparian environments. What a great way to improve understanding among local residents that trash they sweep into the storm drains ends up in the water they drink, adding to the costs of treatment and filtration as well as putting the water supply at risk.

There is much more to be excited about, too - this is just a teaser! I will be reporting on it here as I delve deeper into the report. Stay tuned as I go out into the park and explore the areas the report intends to change.

Obesity is a global health concern. In the United States, obesity has reached epidemic proportions. The experts agree that the best way to tackle the obesity epidemic is through prevention. As such, the goal of Hiking Megalopolis is to work with existing park management, recreation and stewardship organizations that serve the Philadelphia Mega (including the City of Philadelphia, Southeast Pennsylvania, South Jersey, Northern Delaware and Northeastern Maryland) to develop integrated solutions to the obesity epidemic by engaging communities and by highlighting and reinforcing existing connections between nature and healthy lifestyles by promoting ideals of sustainable pedestrian pathways in urban design.

Brian Schwarz is an award-winning journalist whose career was derailed by super obesity. He fought his way back to health - losing 165 pounds in the process of his "fit-life journey". A professional communicator, educator and coach by trade, and activator by nature, Brian's personal mission is to inspire others live their fullest lives. Follow Brian on Instagram (@fitlifechronicles) and Twitter (@myfitlife2day).