“He that does good for good’s sake seeks neither paradise nor reward, but he is sure of both in the end.” – William Penn
In July, 1970, my husband Kumar and I looked at a East Falls house for sale. We drove from Center City along billboard free East River Drive, now Kelly Drive. The hustle and bustle of the city seemed far away. Driving up Midvale Avenue I took in the sights of St. Bridget Church, the Falls of Schuylkill Library, and the trees and greenery by Thomas Mifflin School. Then, what to my wandering eyes appeared, but McMichael Park. Forty-nine years later t’is a rare day I don’t comment how lucky we were to move into this now ninety-nine year-old abode which is a one minute-walk from this green oasis.
As time passed, I learned the challenges facing Fairmount Park, now part of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, and local residents to maintain the site and to keep it safe. Thanks to Alexis Franklin, Keith Shively, and Tom Williams who thirty years ago founded Friends of McMichael Park (FOMP), I realized with love, collaboration, planning, and hard work, people could make sure this part of William Penn’s “Greene Countrie Towne” would be a beautiful, shady, restful, safe, public space for people of all ages to enjoy for centuries to come.
My contributions have been modest compared to those of others. I have picked up trash and painted benches on “Love Your Park Day’ events. As time passed I realized this was a perfect spot for Mifflin students to learn about trees. Fast forward: thanks to grants to East Falls Tree Tenders (EFTT) from the Philadelphia Activities Fund (PAF) and East Falls Community Council (EFCC), hundreds of Mifflin students have learned about trees and nature from Bartram’s Garden educators. Yes, I see every youngster as a future tree tender and park protector.
Other unexpected pleasures included acquiring two “Doggie-Pots” from the Schuylkill Environmental Center so visitors with dogs would always have access to a bag for their pets’ feces. Then there was the matter of the Champion Pawlonia tree whose welfare concerned me. With the approval of FOMP and EFTT, I applied for a PAF grant to cable the at-risk branches of this Champion tree. Once again, generosity prevailed and Bartlett Tree Service did the work pro bono and EFTT was permitted to use the grant for the school programs. Then Mayor Edward G Rendell choose McMichael Park as his favorite spot when East Falls Tree Tenders raised money and planted a tree in his honor.
Twelve years ago… came Shakespeare. Thanks to FOMP volunteers who wrote grants, I had the opportunity to help promote the Bard of Avon during the 11 years Commonwealth Theatre presented his and other works for free to the public productions. I am sure William would have loved the setting as much as everyone else did.
So, do you see what I see?
Do you see volunteers planting and caring for the garden plots, hauling water for trees, painting benches, raking leaves, picking up trash and fallen branches? In May, do you see the Morton the Turtle welcoming young and old to the Memorial Day event? In February, do you see the glow of Love Lights? In December, do you see folks singing Christmas Carols? On winter night do you look toward the sky and see snowflakes falling? In autumn do you see leaves turn to shades of yellow, orange, and red? Throughout the year do you see dog walkers, parents and children kicking a soccer ball, people sitting under trees having a picnic or reading a book?
My hope: For current and future residents is to continue to work with FOMP and PP&R to sustain this undeveloped space so it continues to be the calming public site we all need all seasons of the year.