Grant earmarked for FDR Park upgrades

A $10 million grant is in place to help upgrade South Philly’s FDR Park.

The Fairmount Park Conservancy announced the grant from the William Penn Foundation on May 22, which will support the continued implementation of the FDR Park Plan.

The FDR Park Plan, first released in 2019, responds to climate change challenges and what the city describes as “the overwhelming unmet need to balance active and passive recreation space in South Philadelphia.”

With the support of this grant, the Conservancy will be well positioned to complete the Nature Phase of the FDR Park Plan, including Shedbrook Creek, the Sedge Meadow Wetland, Wildflower Meadow and the Forested Wetland.

“The Conservancy is committed to delivering the community’s vision to build a future-proof, flood-resistant FDR Park that serves the needs of South Philadelphia youth and families,” said Maura McCarthy, CEO of Fairmount Park Conservancy. “In collaboration with community leaders, volunteers and a network of partners who use this park every day, we’re committed to realizing FDR’s long-term ecological and recreational value. FDR Park must remain equitable and accessible for all who use it, so that every stakeholder — from youth sports leagues to hikers and naturalists to vendors at the Southeast Asian Market — can benefit from the park’s hundreds of acres of green space and natural assets.” 

The grant was leveraged with public and private investment and community support. With the addition of the William Penn Foundation grant, FDR Park’s Plan has reached $100 million in fundraising. 

“FDR Park has been a place to gather and experience nature and recreation for over 100 years, but because of ecological and environmental issues, sections of the park become unusable even after a modest or mild storm,” explained Shawn McCaney, executive director of the William Penn Foundation. “WPF’s $10 million investment in FDR Park’s natural areas will help mitigate these issues by establishing 100 acres of accessible natural lands that community members can utilize and enjoy for years to come.” 

Priority projects at FDR Park over the next four years include the completion of the design and engineering work of the Nature Phase of the FDR Park Plan; the restoration of Shedbrook Creek, the Forested Wetland and the Sedge Meadow Wetland, which establish unfragmented high-quality wetlands, and restore thousands of linear feet of streams; continued community engagement and public information updates about the FDR Park Plan; and expanding the quality and quantity of environmental education programming available to the public at FDR Park.

It will also provide for the hiring of a parkforce manager responsible for connecting the vast maintenance requirements of a large urban park with existing workforce development opportunities; establishing an operations and maintenance headquarters on-site; and developing an annual park maintenance program to provide critical support for the improvements implemented through the FDR Park Plan. 

“Thanks to this tremendous commitment of support from the William Penn Foundation, FDR Park will be able to serve so many more Philadelphians for many years into the future,” said Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. “FDR Park is a jewel of the Philadelphia parks system, and thanks to the vision put forward through this community-based planning process, FDR is poised to be a model for environmental restoration that is well used and well loved by a diverse cross section of Philadelphians.”