Most of the stories on this site are about facts and evidence; this editorial is about feelings.
It’s about the feeling of peace I get when my dog and I are the only ones in the grasslands of FDR Park hunting rabbits. It’s about the feeling of joy I get when I watch my 2 year old playing in a little wooden hut made by other kids, which apparently was built just for the sake of building something that won’t last. . It’s about the pride I feel watching my older kids push the 2 year old on the makeshift swing someone made from planks and hung from a tree. It was done without a subsidy, without an order of government and without a ribbon cutting – and it looks like a miracle.
The city came up with a pretty plan for FDR Park, including turning the disused golf course at the northwest end of the park – now known as The Meadows – into ball fields. But the pandemic has changed a lot of things. On the one hand, the community has sunk into the brambles and overgrown trees of this former golf course to clear hiking trails, make art, plant gardens and build play areas. At every turn, park visitors are continually adding new treasures to surprise and delight young and old.
“At every turn, park enthusiasts are continually adding new treasures to surprise and delight children and adults alike. “
It happened so naturally I felt like I was in the fantastic children’s story Where the wild things are: The Prairies grew and grew until the walls became the world all around. So many of us in the city live surrounded by walls, by the sounds of traffic, by the screams of neighbors. It’s a rare thing to have a place in a downtown area where anyone, without needing to drive or pay money, can go get lost in the woods.
When planning new recreation areas or revitalizing old ones, cities need community buy-in. So why would the city want to destroy an area that has already garnered so much membership? Why not build on what this community has already created? Football fields are also important, but I think we can find alternative spaces for them; it would be impossible to recreate the natural, artistic and community environment that magically developed in The Meadows.
In an age of initiatives focused on diversity and equity, The Meadows attracts a variety of backgrounds – all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. Go any day and you might see a wedding, a walking club, teens planting herbs as part of a work-prep program, hipsters playing electronic music, dog walkers, and young families.
One is “Bathing in Nature” or Nature Rx. Tons of articles and academic research highlight the physical and mental health benefits of getting outside. It’s not just about getting children to play in safe, man-made outdoor spaces like playgrounds and gardens, but also to venture out into nature. I don’t know of any other space in the city that is so accessible (you can cycle, walk or take public transport to FDR Park) that can be considered wild. The Wissahickon and the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge are beautiful but difficult to access without a car.
READ MORE: Opposition to Philly’s plan to build football pitches and driving range at FDR Park
Philly needs a place where our kids and dogs can get muddy, roll around in smelly things, play hide and seek in tall grass, get lost in brambles, chase butterflies and throw stones in a stream. for the sheer pleasure of hearing them plop. Let’s fight to keep it wild – and let’s work together to find an alternative place for organized sports.
Rachel Howe is a writer and mother of four who is proud to have made South Philly her home for almost 20 years.