Build more sports fields for kids

By Maura McCarthy and Dontae Privette

In Philadelphia, space is a precious commodity. Specifically, quality playing fields are in short supply in neighborhoods across the city. 

We see it every day: Maura, as CEO of Fairmount Park Conservancy, and Dontae, as director of community engagement for Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative. Below South Street, where 21,000 kids ages 5 to 18 live, learn and play, there is just one regulation-size turf field in the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation system. 

That shortage is a direct threat to a cleaner, greener, safer Philadelphia. Our kids need more fields — now.

Traditional neighborhood grass fields get easily worn out, quickly becoming unplayable dirt bowls that take copious amounts of water, herbicides and pesticides to maintain. Those fields suffer tremendous stress when they face the constant use that Philly’s youth teams demand.

When kids don’t have fields to play on, they spend more time in environments that are less safe and less healthy for them and for the city. 

The scarcity means many families have to travel outside the city to play on quality fields, raise funds to travel to tournaments or pay for private field rentals, divide fields into mini-pitches to squeeze in more play, or even forfeit home games because of the lack of a playable field. For many families, the time and resources to make this happen don’t exist.

For years we have worked together to improve playing conditions in South Philly’s FDR Park, where teams from across the city converge. But the park — with its vulnerability to flooding — is oversubscribed: Due to the park’s makeup, even a modest rainfall or high tides from the Delaware River can cause its current fields to flood, rendering them unplayable for days. 

Fortunately, help is on the way. We are currently working with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to implement the FDR Park Plan, formed in collaboration with hundreds of community stakeholders — including youth sports teams and their families, as well as environmental experts — to come up with an approach that ensures its fields remain usable in Philadelphia’s hotter, wetter future. 

The FDR Park Plan will add 12 multi-purpose fields for soccer, football and lacrosse, totaling 8 percent of the total 348-acre park. After the relocation of 10 tennis courts and six baseball and softball fields, 12 percent of park land will be used for active sports recreation — a small portion of the overall space at FDR Park, but one that will have life-changing impacts for Philly kids. 

In addition, for the first time in park history, FDR Park will have eight basketball courts. These courts, requested by community members through an extensive engagement process, will allow for a safe place to play basketball amid a shortage of courts citywide.

With the park’s transformation, playing fields and courts will move to higher ground that can better manage stormwater, and there’s still room for everyone in this historic park. Having many different fields in one place will allow kids of all ages and interests to converge in one spot, making coordination and participation even easier for Philly families.

The new multi-purpose fields are made of modern performance materials, which use all-natural infill composed of walnut shells, sand, wood particles, coconut fibers or cork, ensuring a safe playing experience that is also sensitive to the need for climate resiliency. Performance turf — which is safer for players than Astroturf, better at managing stormwater, and made of fully recyclable materials — is also able to handle more active playing time, further expanding the recreational opportunities at FDR Park.

The result is more active and engaged kids, who have more safe places to play for more hours of the day. By embedding recreation facilities in parks, we’re removing the traditional separation of nature and youth sports, and bringing kids to natural areas that are proven to boost mental and emotional health.

The good news is these fields are already under construction. Philadelphians need to be aware of how important usable playing space is to our kids, and to support the build-out of these crucial community resources, without which thousands of young city dwellers would have no place to play.

With them, however, our neighborhoods will be cleaner, greener and safer.  

Game on. ••

Maura McCarthy is CEO of Fairmount Park Conservancy, and Dontae Privette is director of community engagement for Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative.

A wonderful project

Thanks to Tom Waring for alerting readers of the year-round effort by Chris and Cindy Guinan to provide recycled bicycles to needy children (“2,000 donated bikes and counting,” Jan. 3).

Waring’s report describes how this amazing couple is part of a family with a three-generation tradition of donating bicycles they themselves clean and repair. They make these donations to organizations like Shriners Hospital for Children, Rock Ministries, Intercultural Family Services and others in a long list of charities.

How sweet to read that the Guinans’ 12-year-old granddaughter, Sophia, is continuing the family tradition with the help of sports teammates and school classmates. Well done!

I just find it amazing that anyone would find the time and energy to donate to such a wonderful project. Also it seems that others in the community are willing and ready to help, making it a group effort. Bravo.

Am sure the children who receive these recycled bicycles will never forget such generosity. May they pass it on. 

Gloria C. Endres

Be a patriotic American shopper

In 1999, we first began to promote the American Workers Need You campaign. Today tens of millions of our fellow Americans are supporting this effort. Our goals are the same.

We’re looking to restore at least a 50/50 balance of what is sold in America’s stores with a made in the USA label so we can restore thousands of industries that would manufacture a competitive line of products once made in the United States that left America for foreign countries, creating millions of jobs outside of the United States.

Compliments to everyone promoting American Workers Need You campaign and American Workers Radio. Together we have helped slow down the loss of industries leaving America and helped maintain and create more job opportunities for people of many nationalities in cities and states across the United States that we proudly call the Great Mosaic of America.

At this time, everyone is encouraged to Be A Patriotic American Shopper and support the American workers and products and services they represent. Made in America represents a wide variety of manufacturers, distributors, service providers at stores in local neighborhoods and malls who all depend on your purchases to remain in business and keep people employed.

For many years, Americans filled their shopping bags with foreign-made items without fully understanding the plight of American workers. Now that we are more united, it is important for us to be a Patriotic American shopper and add to the success of the Buy American Made Campaign that is focused on more jobs for our fellow Americans who need and appreciate us supporting the Made in America message.

Thanks for spreading the word.

You can email your suggestions to Michael@AmericanWorkersRadio.com.

Michael Blichasz

Scariest street in the city

After stopping at the Acme on 10th street, I decided to make a left turn heading down 11th street thinking it would be easier to reach my Center City destination. When I reached the corner across from the police station I quickly realized that I didn’t think this out properly. As soon as I saw the overabundance of strategically designed white poles protruding into the street, I was thankful for sunlight because if it was night time I would have definitely smashed the front of my car into all of them, because I can’t see in the dark, and also because they lack any sort of neon warning cautioning drivers.

This was the beginning of me automatically screaming, “Danger, Danger,” loud enough to reach my guardian angel’s ears.

Thankfully, together we maneuvered past these hazardous poles. Thinking the worst was over, I continued on, but surprise, surprise, my adventure had just begun. Proceeding forward I quickly realized that I was driving down the scariest, most congested street in the world. My elderly car, which could be eligible to sign up for Senior Auto Medicare, if it existed, was in distress, shaking, leaking from the bottom, just anticipating driving down a two-way street that really should be one medium-size lane. Can someone please explain to me what happened to this beautiful wide street where a trolley once ran on its way to Center City transporting workers, shoppers and the like? I have great memories of the trolley, which transported me to see Santa, and the only bad memory I have of the trolley was when old lady Mary got run over by one.  Even though she seemed to survive she didn’t really look like it, but that’s another story.

I’m just so disappointed because it seems that the street has suffered a botched facelift by an unqualified surgeon, whose oversized COVID mask somehow distorted 20/20 vision. I just don’t understand the overhaul of the street, since there are white poles, with no bikers in sight, cars parked in different directions and protruding restaurant tables placed next to the line of oncoming traffic. I don’t know. Is it just me, am I the only one who doesn’t want to sit in the middle of the street occasionally screaming in fear as I eat my burger? OK, I had enough so I decided to find a way to get off of this street.

Unknowingly, I decided to make a left turn onto a street that was blocked off. Oh God in heaven, was I ever gonna make it home? I tried to back out but I knew I couldn’t unless I hit a few cars, poles and maybe some people, so I backed out as far as I could when I noticed a small lane along the curb that might be the answer to my prayers. My angels were definitely working overtime since it seemed like a miracle. I began happily driving down this lane that reminded me of being trapped in a maze driving left and right, right and left, singing, “Ring around the Rosie,” but finally it led me to the center of the street to join the normal lane of traffic. What an ordeal, and I’m not in denial. I know that I will probably find myself on this street again, but next time to avoid the confusion, if it’s possible, I’d like to return by air.

Maria D’aponte