TURTLE TALKS…December Issue IT’S ALL ABOUT THE NUMBERS – “…and we’re counting.”

By Alexis Franklin

Twenty Twenty was to be the 30th anniversary celebration of The Friends of McMichael Park. It was NOT the anniversary year that we had planned. Although we still remember the 29 prior years, and we have much to celebrate.

Looking back over those three decades of volunteer service to McMichael Park, to say the 25 core members of The FOMP group “accomplished much” would be an understatement.

After 30 years of dedicated volunteerism to McMichael Park, The FOMP group was responsible for planting 37 new trees within the park, filling more than 3,000 bags of debris and trash, raising $83,188.00 USD in grants, and an additional $45,000.00 USD in direct fundraising.

Fifteen coats of paint cover Morton the Turtle — the centerpiece of McMichael Park — with The FOMP group giving him a fresh coat every other year.

While the park has had a doggy bag dispensary installed, more than 96,000 doggy bags were used.

All 22 park benches around the park have been painted 15 times during The FOMP group’s tenure.

The FOMP group hosted 200 guests each year for 12 years of “Free Theater” each summer for the annual Shakespeare In The Park series in conjunction with Commonwealth Classic Theatre, and partnered with the Falls of Schuylkill Library to provide 65 total hours of summer story time reading to children by Morton the Turtle.

The FOMP group participated in every annual Love Your Park (formerly Philly Cares) service day sponsored by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PP&R). That’s 30 years of mulching, planting trees, raking, bagging and pruning.

Every year for the last 21 years, FOMP placed approximately 250 “love lights” on one of the trees in McMichael Park in the lead up to Valentine’s Day. The “love lights” were donated by loving individuals in the greater Philadelphia community, and honored or were in memory of a loved one, person, friend or place … or a furry friend. At present, McMichael Park is still the only park in the City of Philadelphia to hold this kind of annual celebration. It is part of McMichael Park’s unique character, and difference as part of the greater PP&R family.

Over the past two years, McMichael Park has been a stop for PP&R’s summer Parks on Tap (POT) events, a pop-up beer garden that served some 200 attendees each day during its appearance in McMichael Park. The third year of POT was cancelled due to COVID-19.

At all times, there have been four FOMP volunteers to tend to the garden beds located at each of the four street corners of McMichael Park — Henry Avenue at Coulter Street, Coulter Street at McMichael Street, McMichael Street at Midvale Avenue, and Midvale Avenue at Henry Avenue — weeding the bedding, planting flowers and seasonal decorating.

For 18 consecutive years, FOMP received help from students at the William Penn Charter School, with the school encouraging the participation of students for an annual clean up community service and environmental day. In 2020, McMichael Park was able to give back to William Penn Charter, housing temporary outdoor classrooms for students during the fall semester amidst the pandemic. Another landmark and unique difference for The FOMP to help educate and broaden the offering to all students.

For those same 18 years, university student volunteers from nearby Jefferson University marked the start of fall semester with an annual cleanup day in McMichael Park — first as Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, then later as Philadelphia University before the larger merger with Thomas Jefferson University.

In addition to bestowing honorary volunteer designations to the aforementioned educational institutions, McMichael Park can also count primary school students from Thomas Mifflin School, high school students from Roman Catholic High School and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, as well as university students from Temple University, all of whom have dedicated time over the years to assisting FOMP with park cleanups. These many students have earned their community service credits in the shadow of Morton as a mentor to all ages in environmental responsibility and as friends of open, green space.

The FOMP has had the distinction of having one of the longest continuously running newspaper columns in East Falls, first with a monthly column in The Fallser Newspaper until 2015, and into the virtual age as an independent monthly e-newsletter.

McMichael Park has played host to elected officials from both the city and state for events as long as there has been an FOMP group:

  • One United States senator — Arlen Specter;
  • One United States congressman — Chaka Fattah, a park neighbor;
  • Two Philadelphia city mayors — Michael Nutter and Edward Rendell. McMichael Park counts the latter as a park neighbor, as the former governor has resided for much of his professional life in East Falls;
  • Three PP&R commissioners / executive directors — Kathryn Ott-Lovell, Michael DiBerardinis and William Mifflin;
  • Five city council members, past and present — Curtis Jones Jr., Jamie Gauthier, Michael Nutter, Ann J. Land and Joan Specter.

The FOMP group can also count royalty as having visited McMichael Park during its tenure over the last 30 years: Albert II, Prince of Monaco. Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, and Albert’s mother, was raised in the Kelly family home across Coulter Street from the park.

Friends of McMichael Park volunteers Bill Hoffner and Frances Bourne attend to the tree pit of the “Black Tupelo,” which was planted in 2015. Ongoing volunteer hours of weeding and mulching and planting of daffodils. A welcoming touch showing McMichael Park is well cared for.

In 2017, $65,000.00 USD was spent on restoring the War Memorial, a monument honoring the more than 10,000 residents of 19129 who served in wartime, dating back to pre-colonial days.

In 2020, $250,000.00 USD (donated by Councilman Jones Jr.) was spent on a playground that is intended to serve hundreds of children.

Contrast the 2020 spending with the staggering statistics from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 83,000+ Philadelphians have tested positive for COVID-19, and 2,200+ individuals have died, more than any other county in the State of Pennsylvania. According to Billy Penn, the City of Philadelphia is now seeing 900+ new COVID-19 cases each day, 880+ hospitalizations, and more than 100 deaths in the past seven days.

Unemployment in Philadelphia stood at 17.7 percent, the highest unemployment rate of all counties that make up the metropolitan area. Homelessness stands at about 5,700, according to the Office of Homeless Services. As of Monday, Dec. 15, police recorded 473 homicides, up 39 percent over last year, and more than double that of 2013.  Though the stock market might be up, sadly, the number of businesses closing across the city is also increasing — more than 1,000 since March. And with so many people working from home, office occupancy rates are down. The City of Philadelphia has a $749 billion USD budget deficit as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with budget cuts to PP&R planned.

Now we’re counting down to Christmas. Then the New Year … 2021. And then Inauguration Day. And this year especially, every vote counted.

Because well-managed parks and public spaces are more essential than ever, there have been a record number of visitors to McMichael Park this past year. A testimonial to the 30 years of pristine care, management and diligent environmental responsibility. It is a sign of how important green space is to the community, which The Friends of McMichael Park has steadfastly managed and maintained.

A toast and extra thanks to our 25 core volunteers who persevered.

As we head into this holiday season: We give pause as we celebrate, and count our blessings. Ready to rebound in 2021.

Some recent additions to the count …

  • One dead sycamore tree that was on the removal list for two years was finally taken down.
  • Three tree tags are being installed by The FOMP on the Anniversary trees that were planted in spring 2020.
  • Several new mowers were purchased by PP&R. McMichael Park is now on the list for having its leaves mulched in place.
  • Ten new DUMOR benches will be installed in the park in 2021.
  • Five of the Gift for All Season benches are being replaced. These benches include the Gembala Family Bench, the Linda Koons Bench, the Faye Tyler Bench, The Kubacki Bench, and “The Doon” Bench.

Turtle News: September 2020 Back to School in McMichael Park- Signs of Positivity

by Alexis Franklin

The Friends of McMichael Park were unable to offer any of our planned events this year, but as students head back to school, McMichael Park will be activated with an educational twist. It has been a challenging year and no one can put a pin in this pandemic. Now is the time when a new school year begins and students are being asked to adjust to a new normal.

Jefferson University Cleans Up McMichael Park

On August 21st, The Friends of McMichael Park hosted ten incoming Jefferson University students lead by team leader/senior Alaina McIlhenney. The students — all wearing face masks, and armed with bags, gloves and trash grabbers — traversed the park and picked up trash and stockpiled branches at various corners. It was a hot Friday afternoon but for two hours the students enjoyed the open green space as they got to know one another. Fun fact: Several of the students walked over from the Ravenhill campus where they had just moved in. They had a laugh when they heard they were housed in the old classroom of FOMP Coordinator, Alexis Franklin where she attended high school. Thanks to Louise McShane for her organizing efforts mobilizing the new students into the neighborhood.

Middle and High School Students from William Penn Charter Join In

The William Penn Charter School students will return for a new semester the first week in September, and are planning to hold outdoor classrooms in McMichael Park on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. This will include meditation and yoga classes to be held in the open meadow. On Friday afternoons the group will offer a community service hour, where students will bring rakes and shovels to McMichael Park for regular cleanup. FOMP will supply bags and gloves, while students keep McMichael Park looking good and green. Thanks to Tom Rickards from Penn Charter for partnering with the Friends of McMichael Park.

Don’t Forget the Little Ones

“Music with Gina” will begin early September on Wednesday mornings. Some may remember Gina when she performed with her band at Love Your Park in May/2018. FOMP volunteer Geoff Brock recommends Gina, saying, “She’s such a talented, positive, cheerful performer and has the kids in motion and memorizing the songs.” Something tells us that Geoff is the biggest kid in the class. Gina requested McMichael Park, and saying, “It would be awesome to be more free and have lots and lots of space to keep everyone at least six feet apart on their blankets.” FOMP agrees that McMichael Park is an awesome green space. Music with babies/toddlers and their caregivers. Bring a blanket, instrument, and scarf! Class begins at 10:00 AM every Wednesday.

Web Site: www.musicwithgina.com 

Instagram: @musicwithgina

Facebook: Music with Gina

Signs of Positivity….Appreciate the outdoor signs that were funded by a group of neighbors to honor the Friends of McMichael Park as part of its 30th Year Anniversary.

Stay up to date with the Friends of McMichael Park:

Facebook: FriendsOfMcmichaelPark

Instagram: friendsofmcmichael

From Philadelphia Parks and Recreation – Wednesday, September 9th at 6:00 PM
Dear Park Friends, 

The Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Fairmount Park Conservancy Stewardship Team is excited to invite you to our second online Park Friends Network Meeting on Wednesday, September 9th at 6:00 PM!
To join the meeting, please follow these steps: Click here to register for the meeting. Enter your name (as it will be seen on the screen), and email address. You will then receive a confirmation email with the meeting link. On the day of the meeting just click on that meeting link to join. Note: If you have not used Zoom before, you will be prompted to download their software (or App if you are joining via smartphone). 
The agenda will cover several important topics, including: COVID-19 Update, Love Your Park Fall Service Day, Parks & Rec Operations Update, and PFN Park Field Trips (formerly known as PFN Bus Tour)

Turtle News: August 2020 Summer Days Keep Drifting Away…

Day lilies ready to bloom at our entrance sign at Henry & Midvale Avenues during the heat wave of 2020.
A heatwave has certainly hit Philadelphia this past month. Park users find a respite in the shade. Picnics, scooters and just plain lounging have been what folks are searching for in our McMichael Park open green space.
Conference Calls are much better in the park with furry friends. A recent park bench was listed for repair and a sycamore tree dropped some major branches was reported and inspected.

Looks like the Ladybugs win this one! Tic-Tac-Toe for Two created in McMichael Park for all to enjoy. Pop up – FUN!

Our McMichael Park Turtle celebrated its 55th birthday this year. Back in 2015 we had cake and celebrated with our 200 person audience as we offered our annual “free theater” in McMichael Park. Hopefully, we will be able to offer summer productions (and birthdays) in 2021.

Fort building….creative play evolves everyday from our young park users.
Meetings and picnics all happening with a social distance in mind. McMichael Park summer 2020.
We had a “hammock” day in McMichael Park in July. Enjoying the shade…drifting away…oh those summer days.
Our FOMP “masked men” who spent most of the summer thus far watering the three Anniversary Trees in McMichael Park. Special thanks to Robert Rabinowitz (left) who allowed the garden hoses to run from his home to provide the necessary 20 gallons per week per tree. Geoff Brock is one of our 30 year volunteers. Much appreciated. Photo credit: Christina Kistler

FOMP: 30th Anniversary Masks…get one while they last!

Friends of McMichael Park Volunteers, Frances Bourne (left) and Bill Hoffner (right) sporting their masks as part of the 30th year of stewardship!

As part of the 30th Anniversary of the Friends of McMichael a new accessory was created which is sign of the times. Our masks in green (of course) with our custom turtle logo is being sported around the neighborhood. A limited number of masks are available for sale. ($12.00 each plus S&H) When the masks are sold out then they are gone. If interested in purchasing, please contact lexy3904@gmail.com. Proceeds go the Friends of McMichael Park. Stay safe where ever you are….Thank you.

Turtle News: IT’S A WRAP!

by Alexis Franklin

Love Your Park @Home 2020 — McMichael Park saluted the 30th Anniversary Celebration of The Friends of McMichael Park with a nine-day Love-fest. Our daily videos, self taped by our volunteers were one-of-a-kind and ones to remember. Unique, AND different!

All of us learned so much … Cuts … Edits … Lighting … Sound … Retakes … iMovie!

We appreciate those Friends and volunteers who got involved and glad our stay at home readers got a big kick out of the videos too.

Audience reach was more than 1,000 on some days, and we’ve received many supportive comments from our readers. Peter and Cathy certainly missed their “Monty Python” calling. And there were sightings of Mark Anthony at the Acme. Christina took us back for some Park history related to the War Memorial and then she and husband Brian brought us a glimmer of hope as we look ahead to Parks on Tap … maybe? Robert and Beth reminded us of how easy it is to adopt a garden bed, and how simple it is to work independently in our current situation. Our gifted reader Jay Fogarty — grandson of 30 year volunteer Betty Miller — mesmerized us with his voices for “The Lorax.” Yes, Danny Devito, you should be concerned. If you missed the dailies then take a look at the links below and see what everyone is talking about.

McMichael Park, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and Fairmount Park Conservancy all have certainly been elevated this past week. We’ve all noted more people using McMichael Park, and all of the Park patrons should be commended on the social distancing practice and creative play in McMichael Park during this time. Yoga, family picnics, sidewalk chalk designs and much more.

McMichael Park as is … is certainly a joy to all at this time.

The City of Philadelphia budget for fiscal year 2021 has been recommended by Mayor Jim Kenney, and is awaiting a vote from the City Council. The proposal includes a massive 20 percent cut to PP&R’s annual budget. Click here to read the proposed budget.

Commissioner Kathryn Ott-Lovell has asked Friends Groups around the city to do “more.” Volunteering will be the only way that the Park system can and will survive. Children need to be fed. Pools will be closed indefinitely. Recreation Centers and public libraries will have limited hours, if they open at all. Seasonal maintenance associates will be drastically cut. The new normal will require more time, talent and energy from its volunteers and Friends’ groups.

The Friends of McMichael Park stand ready to support the City of Philadelphia and PP&R in any way it can, as this determined and diligent group has done for the past 30 years.

As we look ahead, planning will need to be creative.

Our McMichael Park series celebrating Love Your Park @Home 2020 week is a step in that creative process.

FOMP Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfMcmichaelPark

FOMP Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/friendsofmcmichael/

Nancy asks that you stay six feet apart

April 24th: Today was a Meaningful day – FOMP provide lunches for the 39th Police District

Practicing Social Distancing and Ready for lunch from Le Bus – East Falls. The 39th Police officers with FOMP coordinator, Alexis Franklin

Friday, April 24 — The Friends of McMichael Park volunteer group provided lunch to the Philadelphia Police Department 39th District to thank officers for their help and service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friends of McMichael Park — a community-led organization celebrating 30 years of service and volunteer work this year —partnered with local East Falls neighborhood restaurant Le Bus to come up with a lunch meal to cover three overlapping shifts for the 39th District officers.

Facing a global pandemic, instead of celebrating 2020 with events in the one-square-block of green space that is McMichael Park, all planned anniversary events and gatherings have been cancelled indefinitely.

Recognizing that the current pandemic meant many health professionals and first responders in Philadelphia would be called to maintain their duties in spite of “stay-at-home” orders for the general populous from both Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, and Jim Kenney, Mayor of Philadelphia, the group instead chose to donate where it could to thank those that were protecting residents in the city of Philadelphia during such a difficult time.

“We are obviously disappointed we cannot hold events in the park, especially this year when we have so many in the community to thank for supporting the Friends of McMichael Park group over these past 30 years,” said Alexis Franklin, coordinator for the Friends of McMichael Park group. “But those that are keeping us safe during this time, they should be supported where possible. And we wanted to support both a local business like Le Bus, and the officers of the 39th.”

FOMP supporting a Local restaurant and providing lunches for the 39th Police District.

Meet our Amazing Volunteers: Marie and Steve Gibbs

” Do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

Furry park buddies, Molly on left and Sage on right standing in for their owners Marie and Steve Gibbs. McMichael Park is a dog and people friendly place.

We appreciate being included in the 30-year celebration. Steve and I can’t take credit for the dedicated work that these wonderful people have done for so many years in McMichael Park. Our role over the years has been on an informal basis since the park is literally right outside our front door.

Steve had been picking up trash and debris in the park before I even knew him.  I can tell you there have been so many times when we were going out in the car and he would spot a piece of trash in the park and he would stop the car and get out and pick it up.  I’d have to keep hand wipes in the car at all times; otherwise, we’d have to return home so he could wash his hands.  I also picked up trash and debris when I saw it.  Steve’s knees have gotten worse over the years and it would be risky for him to do that now because of the unevenness of the ground in the park.  After falling last year and fracturing my hip (not in the park) I haven’t been going over there as much.  A few weeks ago, however, I was over there tidying things up a bit.  I have to say that the park has been looking really good in recent years and I know that is because of the FOMP.

In past years whenever we would spot some activity that looked very questionable and clearly problematic, we would call the police and follow up to make sure they came and checked things out.  I remember going over by myself to stop some students who were attacking a park bench. I have been known over the years to go up to someone who didn’t pick up after their dog and offer them a bag after telling them it was wrong.  Honestly, things have seemed so much better in recent years.  I rarely see people walk their dogs and not pick up.  I think people are better now at using the available bags.  Also, we haven’t seen questionable or loud activity in quite a while.

I remember raking up leaves in the park with a bunch of FOMP people.  I really enjoyed it. I really liked the pumpkin labyrinth.  I thought that was a lot of fun.  I actually looked forward to going out to buy my pumpkins.  I love the Valentine’s Day lovelights.  So beautiful! I love the peaceful simple beauty of the park most of all.  We have the Friends group to thank for that!

Thanks for all you do!
Take care and stay safe during this difficult time for our country.

Turtle News – April 2020 Many Ways to Stay Connected

by Alexis Franklin

CoVid-19 Bench


Over the past few weeks, our country, state and city have monitored the Covid-19 pandemic.  This has been an unstable situation where we are learning new things each day. As of Now, the Friends of McMichael Park have planned a number of upcoming events which we sincerely hope can go on.  However, cancellations may occur as this health crisis unfolds.  Please stay connected to our various sites and The Friends of McMichael Park will keep everyone updated. 
          -Love Your Park:  To date, Love Your Park week is still on as planned: May 9th -17th.  Our McMichael Park is registered. How would you like to help? Send me an email and let me know what you can do.  Volunteering is free!  AND AVAILABLE FOR EVERYONE IN OUR COMMUNITY!  Lexy3904@gmail.com
     -Not available May 9-17th? Other days can be added for various projects which we can gladly provide assignments based on your availability. There are many projects on the schedule and the Friends of McMichael Park openly and transparently allow for participation in any and all projects.  Lexy3904@gmail.com
    -Shakespeare Live is planned for June 2020.  This summer, we are please to present a new production company, ShakespeareNJ.  This summer’s performance will be something appropriate and timely; a new production especially for us of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Ceasar.” Dates are set for Tuesday June 2nd with a rain date of Thursday, June 4th. (please note this is earlier than prior years so save the date.) This Shakespeare Live performance should run approximately 70 minutes and will be followed by a post-show discussion with the cast!  As we have invited everyone in the past 12 years, open air theatre, free, of course, and we encourage picnics and lawn chairs. This is the most popular of William Shakespeare’s plays  and suitable for the entire family. The Friends of McMichael Park proudly sponsor our 13th summer of free theater in McMichael Park. Thanks to FOMP/Bill Hoffner for his efforts to get this production in McMichael Park. 
     –Parks on Tap will be returning to McMichael Park in August 2020. Parks on Tap is Philadelphia’s traveling beer garden that gives back! With a partnership between Philadelphia Parks & RecreationFairmount Park Conservancy, and FCM Hospitality, Parks on Tap brings a beer garden to various parks throughout the city all summer long. Each location provides fresh food, beers on tap, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages in a festive outdoor environment with comfortable chairs, hammocks, and clean restrooms. Parks on Tap is family-friendly. Dogs on leashes are welcome. Parks on Tap kicked off in 2016 as a way to engage the Philadelphia community and give back to the neighborhood parks. A portion of all proceeds are donated to The Friends of McMichael Park to help restore and maintain our open green space.

Here are Thirteen additional ways to stay connected with McMichael Park and beyond: 

1. We have a BRAND NEW blog called McMichael Park Turtle Friends  – https://mcmichaelparkturtlefriends.com/ – Highlighting our 30 years of volunteering in McMichael Park. #FOMP30

2. Check out all updates on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfMcmichaelPark/Click Here

3.  Or on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/friendsofmcmichael/?utm_source=ig_embedClick Here

4. Take a walk: Research shows that spending 20 minutes in nature can reduce stress levels. Enjoy the fresh air in your park! (Please note that Philadelphia Public Playgrounds and basketball courts are closed as of March 25th.) 

5.  Take note of your favorite nearby tree. Download the iNaturalist app and start to identify the plants and wildlife in your community! 

6.  Accepting Proposals!  Philadelphia’s community-based groups embarking on creative projects & activities that are free and open to the public are invited to apply for grants through our Creative Avenues initiative. Deadline is Friday, April10th –  http://creativephl.org/ca/

7. Explore a fun, interactive map for kids on different cool trees around the world.

8. Learn about a project in Jersey City where participants tweet for the trees for the trees have no phones.

9. Learn about the life of a tree alongside the young people in your life.

10. Watch the documentary Symphony of the Soil on Kanopy (a free movie watching service for all Free Library card holders).

11. Read or listen to Ecologist David Haskell tell the story of smells from eleven trees.

12. Watch live streams of the animals at the Monterey Bay Aquarium or the Osprey Cam from San Francisco Bay.

13. From the Philadelphia Park Alliance/Alex Doty: Think of your favorite park. What is your favorite thing to do there? Now write it down on our new Parks and Rec Defender shield

When you’ve printed out the shield and added your favorite park and activity (feel free to add some art), please post on social media with the hashtag #PPRDefenders. Be sure to tag Parks Alliance, City Council, your Councilperson, and anyone else you would like to know how much you love your park. You can also send any pictures to photos@philaparks.org or text them to 267-404-3010.

When you share this, you are letting City Council know how important your parks and rec centers are to you and to your community.

Be Safe in McMichael Park Practice Social Distancing aka Social Caring