EFCC RECAP: Historic Election, Proposed Playground

For the first time ever, EFCC will postpone this year’s elections (they’re still working on a candidate slate). Plus: a playground proposal for McMichael park gains acceptance, and a smidgen of ire. 

EastFallsLocal collage txt something old something new

Ah, how things change. Last year, EFCC was the only voting body in East Falls but now this year, a new community’s been growing:  anchored by East Falls Forward, powered by new ideas. And also, let’s face it, “new blood.”

As overlapping interest groups often do, EFF seems to have siphoned off some gas from Community Council’s engine:  this year, no new candidates have stepped forward to fill vacating spots. And the Nominating Committee’s unfocused announcement at Monday’s meeting likely inspires little confidence (it does, however, provide cringe-worthy video).

Nominating committee member Chris Caporellie declared this delayed election is “historic” while president Bill Epstein explained they’ll be taking nominations from now until June’s meeting, and hope to have a full slate of candidates for a September election.

Treasurer Joe Leube provided his usual budget report: out of their $70,168 balance, all but $15, 428 has been allotted out to: Inn Yard Park’s playground ($18,572), East Falls Village ($37,148), Friends of Mifflin ($727), Mifflin Arboretum ($2,892), Dog Park ($3002), and the Community Garden ($398). Then the Grants Committee announced this year’s recipients.

Onto the playground presentation, a succinct & well-researched Powerpoint by Tilden street mom Joyce Brady (who created the petition for a playground at McMichael park) and Tennyson Tippy, another local mother & artist.

Joyce has been a Fallser for 8 years, with her husband and four kids. Her original NextDoor post “Why isn’t there a playground at McMichael?” garnered over 200 comments — and almost 300 signatures to her online petition (plus many more paper ones, from door-to-door canvasing). She & her family joined Friends of McMichael’s cleanup last week, and they had a nice chat with representatives, even.

powerpoint intro

EastFallsLocal collage resize powerpoint map desperately needs a central playground

Her presentation, “Building Community Through a Nature Playspace at McMichael Park”,  explains how natural play helps develop coordination, imagination, and social skills like cooperation & taking turns. Joyce also offers why existing local playgrounds are not sufficient, supporting her case with maps & images.

If you’ve been following the story online, this playground issue has a contentious history. When Joyce finished her presentation and faced the audience for questions, a lot of us kinda braced for some fallout or backlash.

EastFallslocal resize post powerpoint collage natural playgrounds

But no! What followed was a civil, polite Q&A with mostly open-minded neighbors not entirely against the idea of a small natural playground at McMichael Park.

Sure, some folks had concerns:

How big do you mean?  While they’re too early-on in the planning process to know for sure, Joyce is thinking an area from the turtle out to the benches, no bigger.

What age group are you targeting? All ages, really but targeting 2 to 11ish. Joyce feels ideally it’ll have the riskier features separate from where smaller children might play.

What’s to stop future parents from changing or expanding the playground? Joyce feels confident that every generation of parents will take great care to honor their neighborhood park, especially one with a beloved play space.

Can you provide some images of what your vision of a “natural playground” is?  Tennyson explained that most natural playgrounds are “low cost, high design” spaces intended to invite spontaneous play and imagination. Joyce created a Pinterest board of various examples — plus she’s connecting with local artists who might be able to give us something truly unique.

The strongest “anti-playground” voice came from lifelong local Brendan Siltman, who first suggested the playground should go on Queen Lane Reservoir’s lawn instead of McMichael. After Bill shot that idea down, he simply asserted “You don’t really need a playground, it’s a beautiful space.”  (02:20).  Joyce politely disagreed that Penn Charter’s playground is a substitute for a community play area open to all anytime.

From the “pro-playground” contingency, Jon Goldberg (owner of East Falls Glassworks) was so psyched about a playground at McMichael, he was ready to write a check right there on the spot to help see it to fruition.

Unlikely voice of reason Meg Greenfield followed with a great point:  if people want passive space, we have Fairmount Park right here! Why not let the mothers with kids have a convenient, centrally located playground.

Why not, indeed? From a purely marketing standpoint, a visible playground advertises an amenity highly sought by the active, engaged families we’d like to attract. It’s like a bat signal for good parents! If we want PhillyU and Jefferson students considering East Falls long-term, we’ll need to make our awesomeness obvious.

Disagreement continues, of course. Beth Gross asked us to post her petition for a Passive Park at McMichael in the hopes that she’ll garner enough signatures to put Joyce’s plans to rest. As of this posting, her link’s been up almost a week and currently shows about 40 supporters and a handful of comments from serenity-lovers who apparently don’t know about the Wissahickon, ha. (sorry guys!)

EastFallsLocal resize collage powerpoint thoughtfully designed playspace

Don’t just sit there — sign something! This playground issue reflects a larger tension going on now in East Falls between dwindling “Old Guard” factions and a multitude of young, internet-savvy professionals who’ve started families here and are itching to get involved in their community. Whether you add name to Beth’s petition or Joyce’s, here’s a chance to take stock in your neighborhood.

The next playground meeting will be Thursday, May 19th at 6:00 pm (during the mixer preceding East Falls Forward’s general meeting at 3721 Midvale). 

PS: Review the proposed playground space — two minutes of recent McMichael park footage from 9:00 am Wednesday morning, May 11th.

 

5 Comments

  • John Margerum

    I think a playground in McMichael park is a great idea, the park is an under used resource and a natural place for kids to play.

    • Beth Gross-Eskin

      As of today we have 90 signatures on our petition to keep McMichael just the way it is. We are a very fortunate to have the park and playgrounds within a 10 min. distance. Keeping McMichael Park as a passive park as nothing to do with the ” Old Guard” neighbors which is an offensive remark. It has to do with preserving this wonderful green space that is a jewel right here in our own neighborhood. We have always been a community that is rich in a multitude of activities and events. The park is already a wonderful avenue to meet people and let our children to have the freedom to play. There are so many neighbors in the city who have nothing as rich as we do. It’s time to think of them and have our city resources support their needs.

      • Carolyn Fillmore

        Hi, Beth — chiming in here to clarify your comment to our readers:

        1: the pro-playground petition online has more 315+ signatures — with many more signatures on paper from door-to-door canvasing.

        2: I stand by my “Old Guard” assessment. By “old” I don’t mean it’s an age thing, but rather more like a “Fallser-Squatter” thing. And obviously you can see from the video shared that most everyone at the last EFCC meeting seems OK with idea of a playground here.

        3. Many neighbors — us included, Beth, sorry — see McMichael as an under-used neighborhood resource. We disagree strongly that the park is a “jewel” but instead feel it looks kinda dead compared to other city parks like Clark nearby that’s a similar size but offers MUCH MORE for the whole community. Also, our turtle is chipped & the electric boxes are damaged, the War Memorial needs weeding, etc. A playground here would get more neighbors involved in upkeep!

        4. A playground IS passive — as explained in every article we can find. Certainly as passive as the turtle & wall already there, so it makes no logical sense to oppose a playground in this corner of the park.

        5. A visible playground in a centralized location advertises East Falls as family-friendly, which is crucial in attracting the long-term, hopefully home-owning new residents we seek.

        Thank you for your comment, and also, quick tip for more success: make sure all your online signatures are from 19129/19144(ish), those are the only ones that count to Councilman Jones (noticed that many of yours are from other states). Should be interesting to see how this highly-emotional issue works out. Cheers!

  • MorganB

    Usually, but not always, when a person declares a comment offensive, what they really mean is that it has struck a nerve because it is true.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *