Guest Post: Stephen Gerard – Liberty Lands Public Garden Project In Philadelphia

Liberty_Lands3_largeFor outsiders, it may seem like Philadelphia is just a city for spectacular sights, savory smells, and an exciting sports scene. Though the residents of the City of Brotherly Love have a certain fondness for the aforementioned urban characteristics, there is far more to this city than meets the eye.

Initially, when you think of urban adjectives, the word “green” is far removed from that conversation. When we set our sights on a metropolitan area like the city of Philadelphia, we tend to overlook even the simplest parts of the city — like the parks, gardens, and small communities; but this is where the excitement lies.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the city streets lies a public garden: Liberty Lands Park harbors a two-acre, multi-use community green space in the heart of Northern Liberties, one of Philadelphia’s most eclectic neighborhoods. Liberty Lands Park is situated just a few miles from the skyscrapers and busy city streets of Center City, offering an outlet for a driven and active community. The grassroots neighborhood movement is on a mission to make the city of Philadelphia a healthier and more sustainable environment.

Originally, the two-acre city block was slated for renovation by the city, those plans were destroyed when Philadelphia condemned and then demolished the site. Instead, the community was left with an unattractive vacant lot with tax totals amounting to more than $1,000,0000. Something needed to be done to resurrect this wasted space, and the community members of Northern Liberties residents jumped at the opportunity to transform the block.

A few very influential neighbors came together with a vision to create a park where the community could come together as one. With a grant from the Philadelphia Urban Resources Project, neighborhood donations, and volunteer labor, the park was finally resurrected in the spring of 1997.

Liberty Lands Park now plays home to the only public green space in the neighborhood featuring 37 plots for community gardening, park benches, a Native American herb garden, children’s playground, picnic benches, composting area, a butterfly garden, and beautifully painted murals. Since the park is not financially supported by the City of Philadelphia, the area is continuously managed by the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association. Community members use the public park as a place to interact with friends and practice sustainable living. The park is a nationally recognized demonstration project for “Brownfields to Greenfields,” showing that with a bit of hard work anything can happen.

Now the park is the established heart of Northern Liberties, giving children a place to play, adults a place to stroll, and urban gardeners a place to harvest their plants. The work of the neighborhood individuals exemplifies the type of people that call Philadelphia home. Liberty Lands Park continues to show the urban progress that is so steadily existent in the City of Brotherly Love.
Author Stephen Gerard is a Freelance Writer for Blooms Today, an online florist based in Haymarket, Virginia. Stephen works just a few blocks from Liberty Lands Park. During his lunch hours and weekends, Stephen enjoys spending time in the park and watching the daily progress of the community space.