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A sign marks the entrance to Clark Park on the 4400 block of Baltimore Ave. Credit: Thomas Dreisbach , Thomas Dreisbach

Philadelphia residents are gathering support to increase funding for parks and recreation for the 2013 fiscal year.

Yesterday morning at Philadelphia’s City Council budget meeting, a hearing was held to convince the city to increase funding for Philadelphia parks by $8 million.

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis testified in front of City Council members while approximately 250 people gathered outside to demonstrate their support for the city’s parks, Philadelphia Parks Alliance Executive Director Lauren Bornfriend said.

“Parks in Philadelphia have been underfunded for a long time,” said Frank Chance, former president of Friends of Clark Park and associate director at Penn’s Center for East Asian Studies.

According to Bornfriend and Chance, the hearing went well, with some of the council members being very receptive to the proposal.

“People are very passionate about this issue,” Bornfriend said.

If the budget allocated for parks and recreation is left unchanged in the 2013 budget proposal, it will be 36 percent less than what the city had promised in 2008.

Back in 2008, the city passed an increase on parking taxes with plans for the money to go toward funding for parks and recreation. However, according to Chance, the parks never saw this increase in funding, as the economic recession followed soon after.

Chance hopes that today, with an improved economy, the city will be able to give the $8 million to parks and recreation.

“Certainly citizens want the promise fulfilled,” Bornfriend said of the supporters chanting to restore the $8-million budget.

Chance, though, is not especially optimistic about getting the full $8 million.

“We’ll be happy if we see some increase in funding,” Chance said. “It’s going to be a difficult process” because more funding for parks and recreation will mean less funding elsewhere.

If the city increases the parks’ budget, the funding will be split among all Philadelphia parks, including Clark Park near Penn’s campus.

With additional funding, Chance would like to see better maintenance of the nine-acre park. According to Chance, there is only one staff member during the summer months who works in Clark Park, which he feels is not enough to maintain the area.

Bornfriend agreed, adding that she thinks an increase in budget will be used for grounds maintenance and an expansion of programming options in parks.

Engineering sophomore Eza Koch agreed that Clark Park is in need of more maintenance. Koch visits the park every week to coach a youth soccer team. He notes that in the summer, the field they play on is mostly dirt that is easily kicked up and breathed in by the players.

Koch added that Clark Park is popular for its farmer’s market, flea market and other community events.

These events attract not only residents of West Philadelphia, but also Penn students.

“It’s really quite nice,” College junior Amy Goore said. “It’s very open and green.”

Goore added that the nearby Green Line Café is one of the reasons many Penn students go to Clark Park.

“It’s a nice green space off campus where [Penn students] can interact with West Philadelphians,” Koch said. “It’s a place to get away from it all.”

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