Guest post by Gail Bower

Last week hundreds and hundreds of Philadelphians came together for a benefit concert generously performed by The Bacon Brothers and Rob Grote, emceed by Pierre Robert. What a great night!

Thanks to everyone who attended and invested in the Rail Park. Thanks to all the sponsors, including Univest, Cheshire Law Group, Poor Richard's Charitable Trust, Victor Keen and Jeanne Ruddv, Union Transfer, 13th Street Kitchens, The Logan, and Origlio, and to everyone who donated their time, efforts and talents.

During my short volunteer shift, I experienced two camps of Philadelphians. One is enthusiastic and eager to contribute financially, to volunteer, to learn more, and even to note how his or her family’s life will change.

The other goes something like this: “It’ll be great… IF it ever happens.”

Wah waah.

Whew. You can feel that right in your heart. And I get it.

If you’ve lived in Philadelphia — or any big city for that matter — long enough, you know that sometimes progress is slow. Red tape, empty promises, poor communications, lack of vision, entropy, poor leadership, among many other variables, have caused great civic projects around the world to languish.

But here’s why the Rail Park will happen and what 5 steps you can take to assure that it does — and enjoy it in your life time.

First, look around the City. In the last 10 years, leadership has cropped up from other sources, creating public-private partnerships of all sorts to transform Philadelphia.

  • Center City: A cleaner, safer Center City. Dilworth Park. Sister Cities Park. Cret Park. And many other achievements and spaces, thanks to Center City District’s leadership and partnership with the City and State, businesses and organizations, among others. By the way, they’re spearheading the fundraising effort for the capital costs of the Rail Park, which is how I know we’ll succeed.
  • University City. Thanks to partnerships by the businesses, individuals, nonprofits and universities, spearheaded by the University City District, the City west of the Schuylkill is transformed from just a decade ago. Drive across any bridge, and you’ve entered the future, where cancer and other diseases may be cured, where new inventions will enhance our lives, and where new thinking could revolutionize industries.

  • Waterfront. Have you been to Spruce Street Harbor? Have you been to a performance at FringeArts? Have you taken a spin (or run or walk) on the bike path connecting Northern Liberties to South Philly? Check it out.

  • Visitors Everywhere. Thanks to Visit Philly and PHLCVB, visitors from all over the country and world see our region the way many of us who love Philadelphia do, too. In fact, sometimes their efforts reflect an image of Philadelphia some may not have even noticed, like all the change, invention, energy, creativity, and fun.

I could go on, but you get my point. Philadelphia has grown and evolved, becoming better and better because more people are contributing to it. From the tiniest restaurateurs poring their hearts out into the foods they prepare to the largest institutions curating art exhibitions on par with any you could see in the world’s best cities, from our natural to our designed spaces, Philadelphians are taking charge and making the kind of City we want to have support our 21st Century lives.

So to the skeptics, I really get it. At the same time, as Friends of the Rail Park board member Michael Garden said on Thursday night, “It’s your City. It’s your Park.”

And we can make it happen — if we all decide to do it.

Are you in?

Here are 5 steps you can take right now to do your part to make sure that the Rail Park happens.

1. Take a tour. When people take a tour, you can see a spark in their eyes. They see the potential. In fact, they see Philadelphia in a whole new way. And they’re hooked. If you’re even a little interested, get yourself booked on a tour (join our mailing list for announcements about upcoming tours) and get yourself hooked.

2. Tell your friends. This park is for everyone. Ideally it will run about 3 miles connecting lots of neighbors, students, and visitors with one another. Who knows what comes next? But we want Philadelphians of all stripes to feel included and welcome. Please tell your friends. Share this web site and the video.

3. Become a member. Here’s your chance to leave a legacy to Philadelphia. Become a member now and some day you can tell your great grandchildren that you were part of a team of visionaries who created a park for them. Pretty cool, huh? Click here to join now.

4. Volunteer. We’re all volunteers, fueled by our passion. Join us. From volunteering at events and sharing information about the Rail Park, to contributing your professional talents — fundraising, marketing, storytelling (as a tour guide) — we welcome your involvement. Send us an email at so we can learn more about what you have in mind.

5. Engage others. We’re going to be successful raising money to build and eventually program and steward the park through the financial contributions of all sizes, big and small. To do that, we need your help engaging others. Invite your friends to join your tour or become members, which includes a complimentary tour. Host a reception or small party at your home, invite your friends, and as you share your passion about the park, ask others to become members or donors, too.

Do you have other ideas? We’d love to hear from you.

Remember, it’s our park. Let’s make it happen, Philly!

Gail Bower is part of the Friends of the Rail Park’s Fundraising Advisory Committee.