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Department History

For most of its history, Philadelphia’s parks, recreation centers and playgrounds were managed by two separate city government departments: the Fairmount Park Commission, created in 1867, and the Philadelphia Department of Recreation, created in 1951.
The merger of the Fairmount Park System and the Department of Recreation created Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, one of the largest urban park and recreation systems in the world. Citizens now enjoy vastly improved access and opportunity with hundreds of recreation facilities and around 10,600 acres of parkland throughout Philadelphia.

The City of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park and Department of Recreation both had rich histories with roots in the early development of Philadelphia. Land acquisition for Fairmount Park began in 1844 and organized public recreation programming has been offered in Philadelphia for well over 100 years.

In spring 2008, Philadelphia City Council passed and Mayor Nutter signed legislation approving a ballot question to amend the City Charter to create Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR). The ballot question passed by a wide majority; on November 4, 2008, 73% of voters approved the Charter amendment authorizing the merger of Fairmount Park and the Department of Recreation. The 15-member Commission on Parks and Recreation, constituted in July 2009, replaced the original Fairmount Park Commission, and the two organizations officially merged on July 1, 2010.

In April 2009, Mayor Nutter appointed the first-ever Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner, Michael DiBerardinis, to oversee merger planning and implementation. With a history of proven leadership within municipal and state government organizations, Commissioner DiBerardinis embarked on an innovative merger process that was deliberate and inclusive of the general public. From spring 2009 through winter 2010, numerous public meetings were conducted throughout Philadelphia.

These meetings engaged thousands of individuals in a discussion around the formation of PPR and the development of the department’s new vision, mission and goals. This highly transparent process formed PPR’s vision of becoming the nation’s premier park and recreation system while embracing a departmental mission to offer beautiful natural landscapes, historic resources and environmental education along with high quality recreation centers and programs.