Community members imagine a different future for Gorgas Park
On Tuesday evening, fittingly Earth Day, a group of Philadelphia University students and Roxborough residents gathered at the university's Sustainability, Energy Efficiency and Design Center to participate in a community organized charrette.
Spearheaded by sustainable design graduate student Joseph Tursi and the Friends of Gorgas Park director, John Boyce, the charrette, or collaborative design workshop, served as the initial planning stage for a long term beautification project for Gorgas Park.
"This all began very organically," explained Tursi, of the project that will focus on the "Hermitage Hill" portion of Gorgas Park, a slice of land that runs along Hermitage Street and is currently marked primarily by bushes and rocks.
"I recently moved to the area to attend school and wanted to have a community garden started in the park. From there, conversation began with John Boyce and we have expanded on the idea of a garden to something, well, bigger maybe."
The evening began with an introduction and brief history of Gorgas Park by Boyce. At that point, the 25 or so in attendance, which included David Bower of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, were broken into four groups for a lightning round brainstorm session.
Encouraged to be as creative and lofty as possible, ideas for waterfalls, amphitheaters and self-sufficient gardens began to surface. As groups reconvened to share and discuss their ideas, Bower reminded folks that no matter what kind of third-party funding or donations Gorgas may receive to implement these projects, it is ultimately the City of Philadelphia's decision to approve them.
He encouraged continued discussion; however, praising the enthusiasm and determination of the community.
"This is what we need," said John Boyce in closing, "the younger generations realizing the beauty and potential [of Gorgas Park] and sustaining our future here."
While the date is yet to be determined, a second charrette is planned to work out additional details of the design plan.
A "Love Your Park" cleanup will be taking place at Gorgas Park on Saturday, May 3 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Refreshments and entertainment will be provided.