In 1993, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) received funding from the William Penn Foundation to revitalize neighborhood parks managed by the Philadelphia Department of Recreation. The Parks Revitalization Initiative is managed by PHS’s Philadelphia Green, whose mandate is to encourage economic growth and safer urban environments through community greening.

The purpose of the Parks Revitalization Initiative is to help organizations and volunteers develop programs, improvement projects and activities that will enhance the quality of their neighborhood park as well as promote a variety of uses that better serve the outdoor needs of the community. Grantee parks receive technical assistance and material from Philadelphia Green for a period of three years.

To be considered for the Initiative, a park must have a friends or other group committed to it, and must be in a low- to moderate-income neighborhood. Parks and parks groups with established ties to other community institutions such as schools or churches, as well as local businesses, are emphasized. Matching in-kind contributions from local businesses for consulting or labor are important as well. The program is now in its second round, and has assisted nine parks so far, ranging in size from approximately one to eight acres.

Philadelphia Green gives guidance and staff support in all areas of park maintenance and management, including: fundraising, organizational development, tree plantings and maintenance, gardening programs, mural painting and public art projects, development of landscape and open space plans, and networking with city resources. Philadelphia Green concentrates on developing the capacity of the grantee organization, so that the maintenance of the park is ensured after the three-year collaboration has ended. The Initiative has also caught the interest of the Department of Recreation, which has increased their level of service to the nine parks at the urging of Philadelphia Green and the local park groups. At the project’s conclusion, ideally Philadelphia Green can retreat and leave the management to the parks group and the Department of Recreation.