PennPraxis proposes user-friendly upgrades to Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park’s appeal to walkers, runners, bicyclists, nature lovers, and the like can sometimes be curbed by the difficulty in accessing some sections of the grounds, which together, form one of the largest urban green spaces in the country.

By adding pedestrian-activated traffic lights along Kelly Drive and Martin Luther King Drive, and creating safe entrances with new paths and crosswalks from Strawberry Mansion and West Philadelphia, PennPraxis, the applied research arm of PennDesign, says Fairmount Park could be transformed, and made more pedestrian-friendly for 21st century users.

Working with the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department, the William Penn Foundation, the Commission on Parks and Recreation, and the Fairmount Park Conservancy, PennPraxis researchers held four public meetings in the past year and conducted an email survey of park users to get input about how they use the park and any suggestions for improvements.

“Over and over and over again, it became clear that a priority is getting the neighbors into the park in an easy and welcoming way, but also pedestrians, bikers, hikers, and recreational users having the ability to really connect to the different parts of the park,” says Harris Steinberg, executive director of PennPraxis.

In their report, “A Community Vision and Action Plan for East and West Fairmount Park,” PennPraxis researchers say traffic lights along the heavily traveled Kelly and Martin Luther King drives would allow safe access to the river banks and the walking/running/biking trails.

The Girard Avenue Bridge, at 34th Street near the Philadelphia Zoo, would be redesigned to make it safer to navigate through the intersection and to reach the Glendinning Rock Garden located below the bridge.

In addition, the report recommends adding a new boathouse and grandstand on the west side of the Schuylkill River to relieve congestion from the boathouses located on the east side of the river.

PennPraxis presented its plan to Philadelphia officials, including Mayor Michael Nutter, on Tuesday, May 13, as part of the city’s “Love Your Park Week” events.

“In many ways, this is positioned for the next [mayoral] administration,” Steinberg says. “It’s meant to highlight the importance of parks as the life of the city and making the case that it should be a priority of the city.” 

Fairmount Park