Parks for People—Philadelphia

William Dick Elementary School, PhildelphiaPhoto credit: Jenna Stamm

Since 2012, Parks for People–Philadelphia has been creating green play spaces in the neighborhoods that need them most. In partnership with public agencies, local communities, and other nonprofits, we are transforming asphalt schoolyards and underutilized recreation centers into vibrant parks and playgrounds for the whole community to enjoy. Our city-wide partnership has recently expanded to impact more neighborhoods throughout the city. These special places will provide opportunities for play, exercise, community gathering and environmental education for over 40,000 children and their families who live within a 10-minute walk. Explore our completed and ongoing work on the map below.

Community Participation

Already, hundreds of students and residents have been engaged in placemaking processes to design neighborhood spaces that meet their unique needs. Our design process includes community stakeholders and potential park users. In the case of a school playground, ideas might come from students, teachers, school administrators, parents, and neighborhood volunteers. Community design teams meet under the guidance of staff, conduct site assessments, and discuss the layout of the park or playground. In the design journal, you can learn how we worked with students at William Dick Elementary School to design and build their new green schoolyard.

Green Benefits

When designing parks, The Trust for Public Land incorporates green infrastructure solutions. Features like rain gardens, permeable pavement and catchment systems offer opportunities to capture and manage stormwater. These design elements help to mitigate flooding and pollution while improving air quality and providing cooling effects. Studies have also shown that urban greening can lead to improved mental health and well-being.

Park Stewardship

In planning a site, we work with partners to make sure the new park is well-maintained and well-used. Each park transformation we complete energizes the local community. Students and teachers want to make the most of their new green, schoolyard and take advantage of new play and learning opportunities. Community groups and neighbors want to organize clean-up days, farmer's markets, and social gatherings. As we have learned, keeping these spaces safe, clean, and energetic extends the park's benefits far beyond the initial excitement of a ribbon cutting.

Creative Placemaking

To succeed, parks must reflect the communities they serve. Our Parks for People initiative infuses local planning, arts, and culture into the parks we create—a strategy known as Creative Placemaking. Creative Placemaking is a cooperative, community-based process that leads to new and rejuvenated parks and open spaces reflecting local identity through arts and culture. It has five components: equity, arts and culture, community engagement, partnerships and stewardship. We are early into this work in Philadelphia, but already seeing results.

Looking Forward

With fifteen parks completed or underway, four new schoolyards commencing participatory design, twelve schools yet to begin, the opportunity to manage Rebuild projects, and an agreement to participate in our first-ever corridor greening in Philadelphia, residents are poised to benefit from our efforts now more than ever. We are excited and honored to work alongside our partners on park design and construction to grow the number of residents within a 10-minute walk of a high quality exponentially. Together we will expand park equity, helping to lift up communities and to catalyze social and environmental change throughout Philadelphia.

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Since 1972, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than 3.3 million acres and completed more than 5,400 park and conservation projects.