A Parklet Within A Park

Everyone has heard of Fairmount Park, Philadelphia’s 9,200 acre park (the nation’s largest landscaped urban park) but Philadelphia is also home to 63 smaller neighborhood parks. Clark Park is a 9.1 acre park in University City, West Philadelphia with an impressive history dating back to the Civil War Era. Clarence H. Clark, the original owner of the land, dedicated the park to children. A master plan was drafted for the large park in 2001 including community outreach, a site analysis, key person interviews, and detailed design alternatives. The plan identified the need for more definitive gateways to the park, the need to maintain the distinctive character of the park while creating a wider number of uses, incorporating best management practices (BMPs) and managing the park’s vegetation more sustainably.

In 2010, the Friends of Clark Park moved ahead with an innovative redesign of the north section of Clark Park between Chester and Baltimore Avenue. The plan’s proposal to remove aging, diseased and invasive trees was met with community resistance but the finished product, unveiled in June 2011, created a central plaza surrounded by fewer pathways leading to gateways at each corner of the block. The central, circular plaza is a very interesting passive park use filled with loose gravel with brightly painted orange chairs and tables dispersed across the space. The circular plaza encompasses several old-growth London Planetrees that add a vertical element to the space while providing a shady respite for picnickers, chess players, readers and LARPers alike. The variety of compatible uses that this plaza promotes and the unique park furniture and landscaping utilized reminds me of a “parklet” with a park. It is fitting that Philadelphia’s first “parklet” is just across the street in front of the Green Line Café at 43rd and Baltimore Avenue.