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 – 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

Turtle News – December 2019

Celebrating 2019: Another year of open green space, volunteering and making the year an important part of so many memorable gatherings. Happy 90th Birthday McMichael Park.We’re looking ahead to 2020!

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Love Your Park – Fall 2019
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Love Your Park – Spring 2019:

We look ahead to a new decade!  The 30th anniversary  celebration of the Friends of McMichael Park. But for a moment: Imagine it is 1990 and a small flyer posted in McMichael Park states that the Turtle “needs a friend.” If interested come to our first meeting.  No internet.  No mailing. No East Falls newspaper.  And, 95 friends and neighbors showed up! All recognized that McMichael Park needed attention.  The grass was sky high.  The trash cans were overflowing.  There were sofas and car tires dumped throughout the park.  You could not see the Turtle from the street. If you dared walk through the park the needles and drug paraphernalia were everywhere.  The Friends of McMichael Park (FOMP) received their first donation of $10.00 at that meeting from David Kurtz.   A bank account was opened.  Other donations started to come in.  Volunteers came to the park with lawn mowers and pruners, rakes and shovels.  This is how the FOMP began.  The transformation of McMichael Park did not take thirty years and it did not happen over night.  Some of those initial volunteers are still committed to maintaining McMichael Park.  Watch our Facebook page as we highlight our various volunteers over the past thirty years. Join the conversation on Facebook.  FOMP Click here.

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Volunteer tree and garden bed celebrating the anniversaries of The Friends of McMichael Park and East Falls Tree Tenders. 

 
 Rewind &  Recap 2019: We planned these events:  -Pop-up-Play, Annual Pet Adoption, Movie Night of “Moana,” Story time with Falls of Schuylkill Library, Qigong, Parks on Tap, Memorial Day Celebration, Annual Community Hymn Sings, Annual Summer Free Theater, the Dog Pack of East Falls commences their walks, EF Flea Market

Fundraising and Grant Writing:  Both the Lovelights and Parks on Tap brought in over $1,700.00 for McMichael Park.  Activity Grants from Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. and Program Grants from PP&R brought in an additional $2,000.00.  Pride chairs were also donated to McMichael Park by a generous neighbor. Maintenance: -Love Your Park:  Two organized service days in McMichael Park for spring and fall.  Over 30 volunteers at each.  Trees planted.  Garden beds cleared and mulched.  Spring bulbs planted. Hundreds of brown debris bags filled!

Maintenance: -Love Your Park:  Two organized service days in McMichael Park for spring and fall.  Over 30 volunteers at each.  Trees planted.  Garden beds cleared and mulched.  Spring bulbs planted. Hundreds of brown debris bags filled!

Entrance Signs & Beds:  Thanks to our FOMP volunteers who adopted the garden beds at our entrances.  Beth Gross-Eskin (Henry & Midvale) Deborah Thorp (Henry & Coulter), Rob Rabinowitz (W. Coulter & McMichael) and Christina Kistler (Winder garden at McMichael & Midvale)  

Doggie Bags:  Funded, restocked and reordered by FOMP volunteers Logan/McCoy. 

 –Continued Stormwater runoff:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/gedDr11mW2HKNsrDA  We hope to resolve this problem with funding through Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. 

Turf Work:  PP&R was able to get to 70 percent of the turf restoration in McMichael Park this past fall.   Thirty percent still to be tended which is on the Henry Avenue side of McMichael Park.  Their plan is to return in the spring 2020 and finish the aeration/seeding and top soil.  

Power Corp volunteers did an end of the year tree mulching project organized by Jason Mifflin of PP&R.

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Nature inspires curiosity
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Family Reunions
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Summer Story Hour coordinated with the Falls of Schuylkill Library
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Annual Pet Adoption organized with FOMP volunteer Mike Andrews and Benny!
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The annual meeting of the Friends of McMichael Park will be on Tuesday, January 7th at 6:30 pm at the Falls Presbyterian Church (lower level)Meeting is open to all.  Let us know if you can attend.  rsvp: Lexy3904@gmail.com


Happy New Year! Welcome to the ’20’s! In this age of misinformation and consternation, shouldn’t it be easier “bein’ green?”

THE FRIENDS OF MCMICHAEL PARK: MAKING A POSITIVE CONTRIBUTION TO OUR COMMUNITY