We all know that our parks have long been starved for revenue. We also know that in spite of the extraordinary efforts of staff and volunteers and numerous successes, too many of our parks have not fulfilled their potential and too many are run-down and lacking in basic amenities.
That’s why the Philadelphia Parks Alliance is encouraged by the Department of Parks and Recreation’s (PPR) emerging concessions strategy. This strategy is an outgrowth of a concessions study commissioned by PPR, the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Commission on Parks and Recreation. As you’ll read in the following article written by Bill Hangley, Jr. for the Parks Alliance, the work is just getting started. And while we’ll have plenty of questions about implementation moving forward, it looks to us like they have the right idea: put appealing concessions in the right places, and re-invest the resulting revenue in the parks themselves.
It’s an approach that’s already yielded some success. The new Lloyd Hall bike rental concession is not only drawing new users to the nearby trails, but has produced thousands of dollars for trail maintenance that might otherwise have had to wait. What’s more, PPR has embraced an intelligent strategy for scaling up this concept. It makes sense to cluster future concessions around the park’s so-called “gateways”, and use the revenues to improve parking, lighting, and other things that make it easier for people to access and enjoy our amazing parks.
Naturally we have concerns about how this will all play out. It’s vital that PPR focus not only on tourist-rich downtown locations, but on neighborhood parks too. Concessions can’t be allowed to spoil our parks’ natural beauty or negatively impact their use. Community groups and other stakeholders have to be consistently and effectively engaged in planning. And the process of picking concessionaires and drawing up contracts must remain transparent, effective and ethical.
And most importantly, it would be a mistake for city officials to see these new revenues as a chance to cut the Department of Park and Recreation’s budget. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. The thriving scene around Lloyd Hall shows us that when the city provides bathrooms, signage, lighting, and a clean, safe, welcoming environment, concessionaires can provide the amenities that help people have fun. Successful gateways will require investments from the city and its many philanthropic partners. But these investments can pay off handsomely for many years, in more ways than one.
So we’re optimistic and encouraged by the new concessions strategy. It represents the kind of creative strategic thinking we hoped to see when we supported the reform efforts that created the new Department of Parks and Recreation. It’s up to park supporters and advocates to get involved and make sure the right things end up in the right places, so that every Philadelphian in every neighborhood of our city can get the most out of our magnificent network of parks and recreation.
Yours, Lauren Bornfriend
Philadelphia Parks Alliance
DAWN OF A NEW ERA: Park officials hope that a new concessions strategy can revive the relationship between parks and neighborhoods
By Bill Hangley, Jr.
for the Philadelphia Parks Alliance
If you think you’re seeing an uptick in the number of concessionaires in Philadelphia’s parks, you’re not mistaken. The Cosmic Café, along Kelley drive, is one “gateway” concession in Fairmount Park. The new food trucks and bike rental kiosks popping up in and around Center City are part of an emerging concessions strategy developed by the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department, in which officials hope to develop clusters of concessions and amenities concentrated around the park’s major entry points, or “gateways.” The goal is to bring life to parks and the neighborhoods around them, and generate revenue that can go back to the parks themselves.