Decades ago, Janet DeLuca felt dejected when witnessing communal neglect of Marconi Plaza, 2700 S. Broad St.
As the secretary for the twin park’s three-year-old friends group, though, she has reveled in its revitalization, including horticultural possibilities, and revealed her pride Sept. 18 as she and her peers hosted fellow botanical enthusiasts to celebrate the city’s having added 100,000 trees since Mayor Michael Nutter’s 2008 inauguration.
“It’s really an urban treasure, so we’re thrilled to welcome everyone for this announcement,” the resident of the 2900 block of South Juniper Street said of the 19-acre space, whose overseers learned last month would serve as the gathering site in part due to their commitment to bolstering its profile. “We want a big role in beautifying the city, and it’s great to interact with those who feel the same.”
Hundreds of such figures spent the early evening fraternizing and receiving kudos for their dedication to Greenworks Philadelphia, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability plan to transform the metropolis into America’s greenest city by 2015. Through the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department, which last year launched the TreePhilly Initiative to encourage businesses, property owners and residents to plant and maintain the woody wonders, last week’s hosts and guests have heeded the call for civic duty, with promises to promote involvement at their core.
“So many people are engaged, and I believe South Philadelphia has a great opportunity to head to the forefront for participation,” Andrew Emma, the TreeKeepers Program Manager and TreePhilly Campaign Assistant, said, noting a desire to boost its canopy cover, the area of land shaded by trees, well above the 3 percent determination by a City-commissioned University of Vermont study two years ago. “They remember when the canopy was high, and they want those trees back.”
The resident of the 1300 block of South Ninth Street serves as the beautification committee co-chair for the Passyunk Square Civic Association, whose members and neighborhood helpers have added 1,200 trees over the last decade, with good tallies arising through TreePhilly’s Yard Tree Program, which bestows free trees to interested parties. The fall portion of the sign-up cycle began Sept. 16 and will run through Oct. 31, with as many as 10 species, including fruit trees, available for November pickup. Passyunk Square’s Columbus Square Park, 1200 Wharton St., will host a giveaway Nov. 10, and Emma and his colleagues are studying, mulching and pruning present plants to build community momentum. Those behaviors and similar efforts earned accolades from Nutter, who congratulated the attendees for transforming Philadelphia into the “City of Arborly Love.”
“We need to tout the benefits of trees,” the second-term leader said, with praise for the volunteers responsible for 25 percent of the six-figure total as his selling point for seeing interest as being for all. “Nights like this make clear we are making an impact.”
Nutter had initially sought to increase the city’s tree population by 300,000, but Michael DiBerardinis, the deputy mayor for community and environmental resources, stated revised projections have put the figure at closer to 250,000.
“I think we all get it,” he said. “If you get involved, we can move this city in breathtaking ways toward sustainability.”
While DiBerardinis paid respect to the throng, Rich Cedrone huddled with his colleagues to prepare for their literal moment in the sun. As the president of the 97-year-old park’s friends group and the South Philadelphia Communities Civic Association, he has striven to strengthen senses of well-being for the community at large, an aim with ample support from the Sports Complex Special Services District, 3300 S. Seventh St., which recently completed a beautification project at the east and west corners of Broad and Bigler streets.
“It’s exciting to have this ceremony in our backyard because we’re proud of our history and are looking forward to the future,” the resident of the 2700 block of South Iseminger Street said of the expanse, which served as the grand pre-entrance for the 1926 Sesquicentennial Exposition and took on its name in ’37 in honor of Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi. “Interest is growing in helping our cause, too, so we’re continuing to get ourselves out there because we believe in our work and what others are doing, too.”
Under Cedrone’s watch, the recreation location has had its playgrounds resurfaced, benches replaced and lighting difficulties addressed. Eager to show off its amenities, the board members have further aligned themselves with parks and recreation and the conservancy for LOVE Your Park events, with the next display of greenery revelry to come Nov. 16. They have also connected with the American Cancer Society to sponsor the Relay For Life of South Philadelphia tribute to cancer patients and fallen battlers and host movie nights, with Oct. 4’s presentation of “The Lorax” as their upcoming film.
“We also have a seasonal worker to keep the park clean for six months,” Cedrone said of another positive of his relationship with parks and recreation. “There are big things coming for us, so it was important to get out here tonight to show how far we’ve come.”
He and his allies are looking to install a garden by next year and could foresee adding it to the South Philly Garden Tour. Cedrone also noted the possibility of adding an Italian anchor soon, with the dedication of it likely to come at a future Columbus Day Parade. No matter what they come to add, the Marconi figures are enjoying their successes and had their work lauded when Nutter presented them, Emma, the Lower Moyamensing Civic Association, Southeast Philadelphia Collaborative, 2029 S. Eighth St., and other entities with framed commendations. To inspire comparable feats, Wells Fargo Co. Greater Philadelphia/Delaware Region President Greg Redden gave a $200,000 check to TreePhilly, itself a supporter of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s three-state Plant One Million campaign.
“There’s a lot of work ahead, but it’s the rewarding sort for sure,” Lower Moyamensing Civic Association president and 10th-and-Wolf-streets resident Kim Massare, whose neighborhood has added 300 trees, said.
“One thing is clear,” Timothy Clair, conservancy senior director of operations and planning, added. “Planting a tree has become the thing to do.”
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at email@example.com or ext. 124.