Play to Win

After a successful kick-off fundraiser and a spontaneous Community Council vote to support a McMichael Playspace, it’s a win-win-win for East Falls. 

Photo by Gerard Plourde

We couldn’t agree more with EFCC president Bill Epstein (Penn St) more when he called the overwhelming support for McMichael’s proposed playspace a “win-win” for the community in the organization’s newsletter last month. In fact, we’ll pile on one more “win” – a win the playspace, a win for this underused park, and a win for the first fundraiser at Wissahickon Brewing Company which engaged over 200 neighbors and raised more than $12,000 last March.

“Not only did these kids march for an important cause, “ exclaimed McMichael Playspace for East Falls’ facebook page, “but they came out to our kickoff fundraising event to celebrate the power of outdoor play!”

And what a celebration it was! WBC’s crowd was elbow-to-elbow with neighbors and local leaders including State Rep Pam DeLissio and Commissioner Katherine Ott Lovell of Philly Parks & Rec, who brought her husband and kids, and gave a great speech to boot.

Grown-ups were all over the neighborhood’s best craft beer, while kids enjoyed fort building with Stick-lets, Music with Gina, and coloring big pages of Morton the Turtle. Even folks without kids <ahem> came out to support the playspace and bask in progress that’s taken 10+ years – and some heated debate — to bring about in East Falls.

Not surprisingly, the event itself spurred some conflict at April’s general EFCC meeting when a handful of members calling themselves “The Coalition to Save McMichael Park” demanded a vote to reconsider holding funds for the Playspace committee.

Longtime resident Robert Rabinowitz (Coulter St) proposed a motion, “That the Executive Committee should reconsider their agreement to hold the money for the Playground committee and that reconsideration be done with an opportunity for people who are for holding it, or against holding it have a chance to speak with the Executive Committee.”

EFCC members vote for McMichael’s playspace (April 9)

After votes were tallied, 21 approved the motion, 25 were against. The motion failed — the EFCC will continue to assist the Playspace in holding funds under their 501c3 status. A parent from the Playspace committee, Holly Maher, then raised her hand to advance her own motion: “I propose the East Falls Community Council vote to officially support the playspace at McMichael Park. “

The room agreed that pro and con speakers were in order.  Long-term Council member Meg Greenfield (Apalogen Ln) spoke first for the playspace:

Change is not always horrible and it won’t take up the whole park. It’s not going to make it a noisy place and I think it would be very good for the kids in the community… to have a place to go with parents where the kids can play together… I think it’ll be a very positive thing for all the young families in this community – I had no idea there were so many until I went to the fundraiser.  We’re swarming with young people and that’s great. Let’s do this to keep them here!

Tree tender Cynthia Kishenshand (Coulter St) took the floor against Holly’s motion:

There are 350 children at Mifflin School. The playground is concrete. The children are there pre-K to 8th grade. I would like you all to go and visit the playground and think about those children, some of them may be your children, or grandchildren.  And then decide where you think money should go. There? Or elsewhere by – as Meg pointed out – what we do have in this community including Cloverly Park and when school’s not in session Penn Charter.

And the vote… 32 for, 25 against – the playground passes! Coalition members complained the room was stacked, and doubted the validity of such a spur-of-the-moment vote. But Bill was adamant that Council rules were indeed being followed, “Any person can bring a motion to the floor at any time,” he said, “Next month, the month after, and after that. You come back with your motion next time but for now this vote is settled.”

For now? While can’t help wonder if any Coalition members might take Bill up on his offer, we’re excited to see new voices join together and exercise their rights in community process. “We are thrilled to put this debate behind us,” the Playspace committee announced on their Facebook page, “and move forward together with the continuing support of our neighbors and the board members of EFCC.” Congratulations, guys.

Meanwhile, the Friends of McMichael Park host a “Love Your Park” fest on Saturday May 12:  9am Clean up; 10am Free demonstration how to plant a tree with free saplings for kids (they’ll decorate as well); 11am Story hour about trees and gardens. PLUS – Music and song with Miss Gina and her band!

Pet Adoption, too – several rescues will be on-hand with available pets including rabbits and other small animals seeking forever homes. Two food trucks offer something for everyone. Party goes til 2pm, bring a blanket and enjoy the day with neighbors and family.

Three cheers for community empowerment and a natural playspace in the heart of our neighborhood! Follow McMichael Playspace for East Falls on Facebook & Instagram, more info on their website: www.mcmichaelplayspace.org. To donate, visit the playspace’s YouCaring page

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