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Critiquing Philadelphia's Fairmount Park Master Plan

Architecture critic Inga Saffron describes a new master plan for Philadelphia's signature piece of open space as "important" and "welcome," but still finds that it falls short in addressing some of the park's critical needs.
May 14, 2014, 2pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Fairmount Park has never managed to become the same kind of go-to, citywide leisure destination that Central Park is for New York City, according to architecture critic Inga Saffron. "While the Schuylkill's banks are often jammed with people, the crowds quickly thin as you push into the hinterlands, the big swaths of greenery known to park officials (but few others) as East and West Fairmount Park."

"Unlike Central Park, the bifurcated park bordering the Schuylkill between the Art Museum and the Falls Bridge is not all that convenient to most Philadelphians. The city's densest rowhouse neighborhoods lie far to the east, near the Delaware, and in South Philadelphia. Public transit access is poor. Even people living next to the park find the fragmented archipelago of niche spaces tricky to navigate."

With those limitations in mind, the Department of Parks and Recreation released a master plan for Fairmount Park. Saffron calls the report important, "as a demonstration of the Nutter administration's commitment to democratizing the city park system by improving access." Saffron also notes that the master plan "is the third major strategic plan produced in the last six years, thanks to funding from the William Penn Foundation."

But Saffron's coverage of the new plan also produces negative reviews of some of the plan's details, which she finds inadequate in addressing issues like funding (for instance, Saffron says it's "a shame the report did not have the courage to explore the possibility of a regional park tax").

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Published on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 in Philadelphia Inquirer
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