Leave on a High Note
While I've been better at the blogging of late, this month's post has been delayed by a number of events, so let's start with an update.
After staging what I thought was my last tour of the season through FDR Park, I had the pleasure of taking a student from Penn out through the meadows to show the diversity of plants that inhabit the space. As with most who haven't visited the area, she was surprised that areas of the park resembling a forest primeval, existed in the city. Sadly for me, I was too keenly aware of the loss. Over half of the trail I routinely hosted tours on, is now inaccessible. The mound with soil of indeterminate origin and safety, looms close to the picnic area. The trees that used to edge a rolling green from a tree swing to the bridge, are now felled, removing the natural buffer that obscured the bridge. It's like yanking down a lush, embroidered, velvet curtain, to reveal an old window with a busted pane, through which the noise and fumes of i95 belch in. We are still fighting, but we've also been called to aid our our neighbors facing similar issues at the hands of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation.
Cobbs Creek Park Golf Course
If you haven't heard, Cobbs Creek Golf course is getting a "makeover" . They have promised mentoring and an educational center to the residents, claiming an altruistic desire to restore a public golf course with historical significance to the black community. They have declared this as way "to expose minority youth to non-traditional sports and activities". They've also promised about 120 jobs.
But we're already seeing promises broken.
The developers sought a zoning variance to allow them to do a number of things current ordinances don't allow, including but not limited, to installing high fencing with no set back minimums and the removal of slope trees. When that was denied, Councilman Curtis Jones introduced bill 220918 which would allow developers to circumvent the power of the Zoning Board, essentially giving them carte blanche to develop the project, without any of the notification and review process the zoning board requires. If this project is in the best interest of the community, then surely allowing review and transparency should not be an issue, right?
Although this bill applies only to Cobbs Creek, its passage would set a dangerous precedent, encouraging developers to work directly with council members to achieve their goals, thereby preventing the Zoning Board from following its remit, to ensure balanced communities by allowing those communities to control the development of the land and ensure the public is satisfied with their community.
I spoke at the Planning Committee meeting, reminding them that the decisions of what happens to public lands should not be solely determined by a developer's vision, without adequate consideration of, and consultation with, those who live in the community. My voice was joined with many others who graciously waited for a chance to be heard, and in the end we managed to convince the committee to stage a 45 day review.
I hope during that review period, the alarms raised by our allies regarding the dramatic and irrevocable effect this will have on the land and all of us along with the logistics spur residents into action. before they realize the bill could mean 150 ft fencing buttressed right up against their homes, increased flooding and erosion when the trees on slopes with root systems that hold ground are removed, and when those who border the golf course, have amenities (such as decks, gardens or sheds) removed because the city maintains they encroach upon the golf course and must be cleared.
And if all that weren't enough, our neighbors in Chinatown are still fighting against David Adelman and Devcorp on the 76s proposed stadium. Anyone who's ever driven through Chinatown knows the area is congested enough without the additional traffic a stadium will bring. This is unnecessary because they already a stadium with all the amenities like parking and Live! to accommodate the games and the pre and post afterparties. This is just vanity regentrification and shouldn't be allowed as it threatens a historic and vibrant community. But like all of these projects, developers claim to have reached out and engaged the community. They're less than forthcoming about how they ignore any opposition and resistance, preferring to tell us what we need, what's good for the city, and doing it anyway.
The bloody cheek!
But I didn't want to end on a complete downer, so I'll say how chuffed I was to be included in Philly Magazine's Be Well Philly as one of six Philadelphia women creating connections with the earth and the community through agriculture.
That being said, I am already gearing up for 2023. I will be hosting a new tour for Mt.Airy Learning Tree MALT as part of their winter catalogue. Painted Bride has not only renewed my work as a partner with their Resistance Garden Project, but we're working on a new tour series that will blend information on the uses of plants for food and medicine with history of this Lenapehoking (homelands of the Lenape).
So while the fight continues, it's tiring, so I'm wishing you a Happy Christmas, a peaceful start to the year, and a bit of rest between the two, that I know I so desperately need.
See you in 2023,