A new citywide environmental initiative will soon have Penn students and Philadelphians seeing green.
Green2015: An Action Plan for the First 500 Acres is a collaboration between city, private, non-profit and residential groups that plans to add 500 acres of green space to Philadelphia’s landscape by 2015.
These spaces will be put in place in the form of parks, gardens and recreation areas throughout the city, many acres of which will be around Penn’s campus.
Commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation and event moderator Michael DiBerardinis highlighted Penn’s efforts in improving the city’s environment Tuesday night at a sold-out event at the Academy of Natural Sciences.
Among other efforts, he lauded the construction of the 24-acre Penn Park on the eastern edge of campus, Shoemaker Green near Franklin Field and tree-planting efforts by the Penn community. Clark Park, at 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue, is also part of the project.
According to Philadelphia Mayor and Penn alumnus Michael Nutter, Green2015 boasts a wide array of groups that are contributing to the project, including the Penn Project for Civic Engagement, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the William Penn Foundation. “We can do some things, but we can’t do everything,” Nutter said of the city government’s role.
Using what Nutter called a “common sense approach,” Green2015 will bring natural vegetation to vacant public lots, school playgrounds and donated properties at a low cost for the groups involved.
Harris Steinberg, executive director of the Penn School of Design’s clinical branch PennPraxis and professor of City and Regional Planning, introduced the plan to Philadelphians. He described the plan as having “quadruple benefits,” including an improved and preserved environment, better public health, economic growth and more social interaction among residents.
Steinberg said that while Philadelphia is known for its parks, more than 202,000 people do not live within walking distance of one in the city. Green2015 plans to allow 75 percent of these Philadelphians to be able to walk to one within the next few years.
Showing before and after pictures of currently “barren” asphalt recreation centers and playgrounds, Steinberg displayed the plans for the future of Philadelphia’s old and new parks.
Of the first 100 acres of the project that are currently underway, 45 percent are being developed and managed by the private sector. “It’s about public access to green space, not just public ownership,” Steinberg said.
This summer, a series of community meetings were held for residents to outline a set of what Steinberg called “citizen’s principles.” As part of these principles, residents established that Green2015 should allow Philadelphians to be part of the project and to create long-term sustainability for the recreational areas.
Executive Director of the City Planning Commission Gary Jastrzab praised Green2015, saying it is the first citywide comprehensive plan the city has undertaken in decades.
DiBerardinis said the initiative will fulfill Nutter’s vision of a “green city.”
The plan “not only puts us in the right direction — it shows us the way,” DiBerardinis said. “This is a time of hope.”
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