Parks & Rec and its partners are working to transform FDR Park. The work is based on a community-informed plan. Here’s an update on the planning process, recent projects, and what’s ahead.
About the plan
The FDR Park master plan is a partnership between Parks & Rec and the Fairmount Park Conservancy to restore the 348-acre park. The planning process began in late 2017. It aims to address heavy use and regular flooding at the park. These issues have negatively affected the park’s infrastructure and environmental integrity.
A year-long planning process engaged 3,000 community members. Outreach included:
- Presentations in seven languages.
- Online surveys.
- Direct engagement with park users.
- Two public open houses.
- Small design workshops.
- Thirty stakeholder meetings.
The way water affects the site—called hydrology—was also looked at very closely. FDR Park is built on former wetlands. The Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers flow very close to the park. The park floods due to river tides and storms. The study:
- Looked at how stormwater moves onto the site.
- Examined areas that may flood due to high groundwater.
- Aligned community priorities with the realities of a changing climate.
- Sought a balance of recreation, nature, and water.
The FDR Park plan will take decades to complete. The work will be done in phases and will cost $250 million.
Here’s a look at the work Parks & Rec and our partners have completed over the past year:
1. Repaved park roads and parking lots.
The poor state of the roads in FDR Park was an issue that came up during the engagement process. Parks & Rec partnered with the Philadelphia Streets Department. Together, we completed a $750,000 repaving project over the summer of 2020. We repaved 58,911 square yards of the loop road and parking lots. This project ensures that the park remains safe and welcoming.
2. Installed new bike lanes.
Parks & Rec coordinated the installation of the park’s first on-street bike lanes.
3. Hired new park staff.
Before the launch of the Master Plan, FDR Park was an unstaffed site. In 2020, Parks & Rec created these new staff positions for FDR Park:
- FDR Park’s first Executive Director was appointed in March 2020. This position will support programming and help implement the multi-year master plan.
- Additionally, two Parks & Rec employees will lead stewardship and volunteer coordination efforts.
These staff members have helped coordinate programming and maintenance at the park. This has proved very helpful since park use increased as a result of the pandemic.
4. Recruited over 100 regular volunteers.
Each weekend, FDR Park welcomes a dedicated group of regular volunteers. They help clean and green the park. As a result of their efforts, the park is cleaner and more welcoming to visitors.
5. Provided space for people to socially-distance.
FDR Park has seen record numbers of attendance in the past year. This is largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To create more outdoor space for people to socially distance, Parks & Rec:
- On some weekends 1,200 vehicles visited FDR Park in 2020.
- Select weekend road closures allowed park managers and visitors to experience what a car-free park is like.
- Added temporary passive use space.
- Parks & Rec temporarily opened up the former FDR Park golf course for passive use.
- The new space included temporary trails in the meadow areas around the old golf course.
The temporary meadowland and trail space have been very popular. They offered residents a taste of what’s to come as we roll-out the master. The plan will expand the park’s meadowland by 36% from its previous state. The current trail network in the park will be tripled.
6. Began renovations of the future Welcome Center.
To create an FDR Park Welcome Center, Parks & Rec is renovating a historic 1926 park structure. The 5,500 square foot former guardhouse will be used by staff and community organizations to engage park visitors. The site will also host a rotating calendar of programs.
In 2020, we invested $1,000,000 in a new roof and structural improvements for the building. In February 2021, we announced that the project received:
- $3 million in State of Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant funds.
- $1 million from the City of Philadelphia’s capital budget.
The completed Welcome Center will include:
- A courtyard with restrooms for park users.
- A staffed information center.
- Equipment rentals.
In later phases, the adjacent stables will be transformed into a 4,000 square foot cafe and 6,700 square foot event space overlooking the Pattison Lagoon.
7. Secured funding to design innovative new playscapes.
In 2020 design work began for new destination playspaces in the park. The community identified this as an early-action priority during the engagement process. The Children’s Play Area, located in a grove of mature trees next to the Welcome Center, will:
- Include high quality, interactive play elements.
- Be set within a landscape of natural features.
- Feature barrier-free paths, hills and planted spaces.
This work is being funded by:
- A $250,000 planning grant from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
- Matching funds from the Fairmount Park Conservancy.
8. Worked with Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to bring the Philadelphia Flower Show to the park!
The Philadelphia Flower Show will take place June 5 – 13, 2021 at FDR Park. The move to an outdoor venue, the first time in the Show’s history, will:
- Use 15 acres to provide space for social distancing.
- Take advantage of the park’s inspiring natural beauty.
- Allow for new creative expression and horticultural displays.
- Celebrate the benefits of being outside.
- Feature timed, date-specific tickets to limit attendance.
- Introduce exciting new features.
- Include cherished elements of the 192-year-old show.
The master plan is a partnership between:
- Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
- Fairmount Park Conservancy
With support from:
- Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson
- William Penn Foundation.