FDR Master Plan seeks community input

The Fairmount Park Conservancy is drafting a long term improvement process for the historic city park.

Special to South Philly Review/Photo courtesy of Fairmount Park Conservancy

Throughout the next year, South Philly dwellers may notice steady changes to Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park.

Actually, residents will not solely observe such improvements — they could, in fact, be visionaries behind them.

In its latest focus, the Fairmount Park Conservancy is drafting a master plan process for the 350-acre park, working toward revitalizing, yet retaining, various elements of the public space, including historic, athletic and environmental components over the next three decades.

While the organization is leading this capital project, it’s chiefly considering the input of park-goers and nearby neighbors before launching any official plans by early 2019.

The conservancy, which sent out an RFP in August 2017, decided on WRT Design as the architect this past March.

“We know how important people’s parks and public spaces are to them,” said Jamie Gauthier, executive director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy. “FDR is a park that draws from a neighborhood radius but also draws regionally for people that come to the park, and so we knew that the park user perspective would be incredibly important in shaping the future of the park.”

After continued partnership with with the Friends of FDR Park, last year, the two entities started brainstorming processes designed to attract public involvement.

The conversatory launched an online survey — available in five languages — in May, which covers all facets of current and potential aspects of the park, ranging from feelers like “How important are the lakes and creeks at FDR Park to you?” to “If you have visited FDR Park within the past year, what did you do when you were there?”

Along with ranking the importance of natural and cultural resources, another key aspect of the survey is one of the final inquiries that allows participants to share what they’d like to experience and see in the park, which is more than a century old.

The survey already received nearly a 1,000 responses, according to Gauthier.

“People talking to us about how they use the park, how they wanna use the park — where they come from when they visit the park,” she said. “So, it collected a good set of data and information from the users of the park.”

In June, the conservancy held a public meeting, which Gauthier says saw a diverse turnout of more than 160 people. Another public meeting is tentatively scheduled for this fall.

Special to South Philly Review/Photo courtesy of Fairmount Park Conservancy

From additional running paths to swimming pools, the conservancy received a gamut of new ideas from participants.

Fostering more face-to-face contact, the conservancy also plans to establish a “park planning booth” and ambassadors in the park who will address and consider the thoughts of FDR users.

“It’s really a broad set of uses in terms of how people are currently using the park and in terms of what people want to see at the park,” Gauthier said “So, the master plan is aiming to integrate all these desires from the community and the users of the park and to ensure that FDR continues to be a place for everyone.”

After the conservancy completes its current compiling of data, everything will analyzed by the end of this year before moving forward with finished plans.

Gauthier says there is no set end date as to when the revitalization will come to a conclusion since the overarching revamping is theoretically ongoing under this master plan, giving the conservancy a roadmap for investment over a long term.

Special to South Philly Review/Photo courtesy of Fairmount Park Conservancy

For folks interested in participating in the various forms of FDR improvement engagement, please visit myphillypark.org/what-we-do/capital-projects/fdr-park/.

“People are integral to the health and vitality of public spaces and people in Philadelphia care deeply about their public spaces and what happens with them,” she said. “So, we knew we would not have a successful plan without getting a huge amount of input from the diverse group of stakeholders and park users that love and are interested in FDR.”