We Get Letters: Playground Update from the Friends of McMichael

Alexis Franklin writes in defense of green space at McMichael Park and recaps a recent vote by the Friends group.

EastFallsLocal 5-11 McMichael buttercups and bench a leafy green cause

The playground at McMichael discussion has certainly intensified in the past few weeks – there are now two petitions on Change.org and several highly entertaining threads on the Nextdoor messageboard. There’s also been a surprisingly civil EFCC meeting on the topic with respectful questions from both sides of the issue.

To make clear her group’s position (and to recap a vote the membership recently held), Alexis Franklin, Coordinator of the Friends of McMichael Park, provided the following letter —

May 14, 2016

The Friends of McMichael Park met shortly after our clean up day in McMichael Park fondly called “Love Your Park Day.”  We had 33 volunteers this year and, as always. they all do beautiful work, with the support of the Fairmount Park Conservancy.  We welcomed our freshman class of volunteers from both East Falls and beyond the neighborhood.  I should mention that two of our long time volunteers of McMichael Park also volunteered at Inn Yard Park for LYP/2016 as they did not get any volunteers from the neighborhood except for their park coordinator.

Love Your Park Cleanup

Playground Vote
Our group met on May 10, 2016.  Twenty members of the Friends of McMichael Park voted unanimously that children should be encouraged to play in McMichael Park and also voted unanimously that equipment was unnecessary and unwanted.

We discussed the undefined playground and to poll the Friends’ views on the park. Friends of McMichael Park Members also provided source research linked here and here on the topic. Pocket parks and viaducts are actively being sought and considered to create green, natural space and since 1929 we have it here in East Falls already.

EastFallsLocal Alexis Franklin McMichaelpruningJune8 txt

The consensus is: the playground is not clearly defined, i.e., footprint and design. Fencing was also raised according to the ASTM standard used by Parks and Recreation. Some members felt that our three existing playgrounds (McDevitt, InnYard and Cloverly) are underutilized.

EastFallsLocal Alexis Franklin McMichael pic txt

The unanimous vote by the Friends is to maintain the passive, natural and peaceful setting of McMichael Park.  It is important to point out that the Friends of McMichael Park who were not in attendance have the ability to sign the natural passive Park petition.

Several members at the meeting successfully raised children utilizing McMichael Park as a natural play space and place for parents to socialize without any equipment.

They also felt that the same opportunities exist for children and parents today. It is thought that interactive games encourage creativity, inventiveness, socialization and leadership qualities.  The natural park petition is now over 100 supporters in 5 days. The Friends had a unanimous vote and a vast number of residents are in agreement.

I would mention that we reached out to the Friends of Inn Yard Park to discuss if former playground proponents have helped clean and maintain the structure and park afterwards.  Although the recent numbers for LYP were disappointing, the Friends of Inn Yard Park maintain that the playground is available for everyone.

They may try to reschedule another cleanup day as the mulch pile is still there. There are no issues with safety of the playground at Inn Yard Park.

SAMSUNG

For the past twenty-six years, the mission of the Friends of McMichael Park has always been to restore and preserve the six acres of McMichael Park.  Safety is also our primary concern.  The trees are pruned 20 feet from the base so that a clear long view is for all to see from corner to corner. How fortunate our community is to have a natural peaceful green space. Other neighborhoods are not as fortunate.  McMichael Park is for everyone: “One Natural Park. One East Falls.”

Also, Steve (Editor’s Note: Yours Truly), as you say, since you are not pro playground but pro activism, I challenge you to look into our business community, the hub of the neighborhood at Ridge and Midvale.  Ask all of the proprietors who invest in this community how they feel about neighbors not walking down the hill to buy a cup of coffee or use the bank or frequent a restaurant.

There should be strong and vigorous support in the efforts of the many developers and owners who are making significant investments in the Ridge/Midvale business corridor (David Grasso, Rick Colucci, How Properties, East Falls Ridge Avenue Partners and others) and the many business establishments who are endeavoring to create a vital and thriving sense of place.

The location of Inn Yard Park represents an important gathering place for our families and our community in support of this growth and our future.

Thank you.

Alexis Franklin

Coordinator of the Friends of McMichael Park

(1995-2016)

For more about the history of the Friends, and their accomplishments, click for a letter from Alexis Franklin.

For the full story, read Penn street playground supporter Chris McCabe’s rebuttal. 

10 Comments

  • F Joseph Locastro

    Dear Alexis,

    Thank you for your letter. I am in full agreement and would be glad to sign a petition if necessary.

  • Chris

    This is very interesting. I am planning a lengthy rebuttal and commentary on the letter from Ms. Franklin, who, by the way, no longer lives in East Falls. Look for it here, or on Nextdoor. Thank you.

  • Sean

    I’d like to thank East Falls Local for posting a well-considered rebuttal to the editors’ stated position, and of course Ms. Franklin for writing it. These types of divisive issues are common in city neighborhoods, but this kind of respectful discourse is not. Well done on all sides.

    That being said, I must disagree with Ms. Franklin. How passive a public space is is a matter of degree, and I believe the tranquility of McMichael could easily remain while containing with an attractively-designed and sanely-conceived playground. It could also be argued that the lack of inviting nodes in the park is oppressive in its own way, seeming like a de facto front lawn for the commandingly classic architecture that surrounds it. Perhaps what would draw the residents “up-the-hill” down to the elements of Ridge would be an introduction of living among relative urban plurality to an area too long reliant on its castled detachment.

    • Carolyn Fillmore

      Thank you so much for your kind words. Big thanks to Alexis and the Friends of McMichael, too, for sharing their position, and offering so much to think about.

  • Greg

    As a father of three young children (7,5, and 3 years old), and a 14-year resident of East Falls, I firmly support the notion that McMichael park remain “playground equipment free”.

    Our children have spent time at McDevitt, Inn Yard, and Cloverly playgrounds (at least when the playgrounds are not heavily populated with teenagers from various schools) fand while they’ve enjoyed each of those their playtime is generally short lived (15 – 20 minutes) before becoming bored with the slides/swings/equipment.

    By the far their favorite spot seems to be McMichael. While that may seem counter-intuitive, I believe it’s because they’ve always found ways to create their own “play” on the turtle, or “the steps”, or among the trees. Pickup games of hide and seek, soccer, capture the flag, etc. with other kids that are often there have entertained them for far longer periods than any of the other playgrounds.

    My two cents.

  • Chris McCabe

    Ms. Franklin, we all thank you and the Friends for your efforts in McMichael Park over the years. We are all extremely grateful for volunteers like yourself and the other members of the Friends, regardless of whether you still live in East Falls.

    According to your May 14 letter, the Friends have unanimously voted against the installation of a playground in McMichael Park. From my vantage point, this appears to be a final decision of the “Friends,” the same position taken 10 years ago, but I could be mistaken and perhaps there is still room for compromise.

    Obviously, the pro-playground folks would prefer not to waste their time trying to design a suitable playground in McMichael Park, so as to satisfy any anticipated and valid concerns of the Friends, only to discover months from now that the Friends will never, ever support (“over their dead bodies” is the phrase that comes to mind) any kind of playground in McMichael Park.

    So, which is it? Will the Friends ever support the installation of any kind of children’s playground in McMichael Park, the present turtle excluded?

    Yes or no? It’s a fairly simple and straightforward question, and we’re all entitled to a straight and honest answer. Thank you.

  • Anthony English

    My family moved out of EF in the late 80s but I’m with the people that want to keep the park as it is. As was stated, there are already 3 playgrounds in the neighborhood already, why not make sure they are used and maintained?

    • Chris McCabe

      At the risk of beating a dead horse, there are not three playgrounds in the neighborhood. There are two public playgrounds – at McDevitt and Inn Yard Park – but these are at the edges of the community, whereas McMichael Park is smack dab in the middle of the residential community, surrounded by homes and families, and is easily accessible to East Falls residents and those families from the Abottsford Homes, Roxborough, Manayunk, Mt. Airy, and Germantown who may not have a nice large park with a playground in their communities or who might want a change of pace.

      McMichael Park is a perfect location for a children’s playground and would liven up a park which is felt by many to be underutilized. If McMichael Park can handle an annual flea market, with all of the damage that comes from such a commercial enterprise, it can easily support a playground without losing its character.

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