August 26, 2011 – Fairmount Park, PA
(written by Abby Johnson, photographs by Quill Teal-Sullivan)
Mr. Tee Jay Boudreau, Special Projects Manager at Fairmount Park gave students a behind the scenes tour of Fairmount Park. Tee Jay Boudreau is a former Fellow of the Longwood Graduate Program.
History of Fairmount Park
In the late 1790’s there was a yellow fever epidemic. In an effort to ensure clean drinking water, the first municipal water department in the country was developed on the site that is now Philadelphia City Hall. Additional efforts to ensure clean drinking water included purchasing buffer land surrounding the five waterways: Dahrby Cobbs, Pennypack, Poquessing, Tookancy/Tocany-Frankford, and Wissahickon Creek. This buffer land totals 9,200 acres, which composes 10% of the city’s infrastructure, 13% of the city’s land mass, and all of this comprises the Fairmount Park System of Philadelphia.
The City of Philadelphia merged the Department of Recreation and the Department of Parks, which, combined, is now responsible for maintaining everything from city street trees, to public gardens, to ball fields. Altogether, that’s a 150,000 – 200,000 trees! The departmental merging is an unusual but successful model. Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter’s initiative is to plant 300,000 trees by 2013. Other facilities include the Please Touch Museum, Horticulture Center and conservatory.
Organic Recycling Center w/ Tee Jay Boudreau and Marc Wilken
The students got a first hand look at the recycling yard waste and compost center. Twenty years ago the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) set out a concrete pad to collect and deposit yard waste. Today, this site is used by Fairmount Park and other municipal areas for composting purposes. Collected materials are handled so as to convert raw vegetative matter to mulch and organic compost over time. The conversion process takes about four months to turn from a mixture of foliage and manure to “black gold.” Compost turners and aerators figure prominently in the successful conversion process. In previous years, 3400 tons per week were collected; however, due to current budget cuts only curbside pick up matter is retained, yielding about 2100 tons per week. Manure from city horse farms also contributes to the richness of the compost. Philadelphia residents can take advantage of this clean compost for free. Compost is sold to contractors for a larger fee.
In 1996 Hurricane Floyd washed away one of the maintenance buildings. It was quite a coincidence that when we visited Fairmount Park, the staff was in the throes of preparations for an impending Hurricane Irene, which was scheduled to hit the next day!
Flood Plain management/ Water Flow Diversion
Fairmount Park staff have proactively developed a diversion plan to mitigate land erosion and pool water at certain points in the Park. This not only protects the land above but also the park users below. The topography map showed very steep points of terrain above the historic Valley Green Inn at Wissahickon Park below. The trails at Wissahickon are used by joggers, walkers, and other park patrons daily. The flood plain management activities do not impede animals from traveling throughout the park, rather it protects habits from washing away.