Olney: Trying to Beautify the Neighborhood

Proud Olney residents stand around a tree they just planted.

Every neighborhood has children and children need places to play.

Not every section of the city is lucky enough to have trees and open spaces like Olney. Fisher Park, which is located at 600 W. Spencer Ave., is a beautiful, wooded area that is at the disposal of residents for recreation.

“It is essential for youth to have a place to run around outside on a surface other than concrete,” said Laurel Sweeney, chair of the Fisher Park Community Alliance. “Trees and open spaces are not only physically healthy, but they increase attention span, lower crime and raise land values in the surrounding area.”

Proud Olney residents stand around a tree they just planted.
Proud Olney residents stand around a tree they just planted.

The land that Fisher Park sits on was once owned by Joseph Wharton of University of Pennsylvania fame. The park was opened to the public in 1911 and has been owned by the Fairmount Park Commission ever since.

Today, the park offers 23.3 acres of recreation space and woodlands. There are trails for hiking or walking, hills for sledding in the winter, tennis courts, playgrounds, picnic areas, basketball courts, a mediation garden and the Roots Cooperative Community Garden.

Programs offered at the park include summer-day camps run by the Philadelphia Department of Recreation and “TLC Days” every third Saturday morning of the month.

TLC Days are operated by FPCA. The alliance was formed in 1997 “to raise the quality of life and provide a safe and secure environment for all residents to enjoy the outdoors.”

On TLC Days, volunteers from the neighborhood and local Community Service Organizations such as the Circle K Club from La Salle University clean up litter, plant and maintain the community garden, pick weeds and plant and prune trees.

Annual memberships are available from FPCA for $10, however, the alliance relies heavily on volunteer work, donations from local businesses and grants.

Philadelphia City Councilwoman Marian Tasco awarded FPCA Philadelphia Activities Grants every year since its inception in varying amounts from $2,500 to $5,000. FPCA also received a $60,000 grant titled the “Growing the Neighborhood Grant” from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.  This money was used to install a water supply to the Roots Community Garden.

The Roots Community Garden is a unique butterfly and herb garden carved out of the park, featuring 26, four-by-eight-foot plots. Each plot is tended to by members of the community.

Roots gardener Shareen Kelly stands by her plot.
Roots gardener Shareen Kelly stands by her plot.

“It’s very fun,” said Roots Community gardener and Olney resident Shareen Kelly. “Spending money on [Roots] has brought people back into the park.”

The fee for a plot is $20 annually, and there is a waiting list.

Roots has garnered positive feedback and funding from the Fairmount Park Commission, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Philadelphia Recreation Department. Members of the garden have even been invited to the Philadelphia Flower Show for the past four years to recreate the garden in a display.

“[Roots] has fed the soul of the neighborhood in an important way,” Sweeney said.

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  1. Hi,
    My name is Michele, and my time staying here in Philadelphia is temporary;however, the opportunity to volunteer and give some of my time to my originating home would be nice. I like to see Philadelphia look nice and clean, too. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail or call @ 215-329-2059 for any days you are doing a clean up within the community.

    Your response would be appreciated.
    Thank you, Michele McManus

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