Lack of Parks and Rec Funds Could Threaten Philly’s “Green” Future

Philadelphia has been making a noticeable effort to boost its “green” reputation as of late. Frommer’s Travel Guides recently voted us one of the ten best cities for parks and with new projects like the Reading Viaduct, the Dilworth Plaza rehab and the Tree Philly initiative, it would seem that officials are firmly dedicated to rejuvenating Philly’s public spaces. Unfortunately, the funds needed to run our already existing parks seem to be shrinking each year.

On Tuesday, City Council hearings began to determine the budget for the 2013 fiscal year. Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis and other green activists (who reportedly wore green shirts) gathered to hear Mayor Nutter’s proposed budget, which may cut the department’s funding by $8.2 million this year.

Mayor Nutter’s budget is $47.8 million (down from $56 million) and most advocates are not satisfied with this number. Board member on three Friends Groups (community organizations that aim to protect Schuylkill River Park, Fitler Square and Rittenhouse Square) Derek Freres said, “At Schuylkill, they’ve closed the rec center on Saturdays due to lack of funds. That’s when kids need it the most!” According to Plan Philly, many in activists in attendance held signs, chanting “Restore $8 million.”

As Parks Alliance’s Lauren Bornfriend pointed out, when parks aren’t taken care of and rec centers aren’t available to children, neighborhoods suffer.

Most seem to agree that the economy’s downward spiral after 2008 is the main cause of Parks and Rec’s dwindling budget and Council members are now forced to decide between granting the department $8.2 million or taking the money from another allocated budget.

Many of the Mayor’s recent initiatives have been centered on public spaces in Philly, the most recent being his highly controversial ban on feeding large groups of the homeless in city parks. But if the Parks and Recreation department is struggling to fund our existing public spaces, it seems that Philly’s hope for a greener future may be slipping away.

Hearings for next year’s budget will continue throughout the month. As DiBerardinis puts it, “If I said ‘we get everything done when it needs to be done,’ I wouldn’t be telling the truth.”

Source: Plan Philly | Photos: Uwishunu, Visit Philly

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Arielle Hontscharik

A college student in Philadelphia and aspiring writer and photographer, Arielle can usually be found reading and writing in nearby coffee shops or off exploring the wilderness in Pennsylvania's State Parks.

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