Friends of the Rail Park Explores What's Possible for Parks in a Post-Pandemic Philly Through New Programming and Community initiatives
Through COVID-safe programming, Friends of the Rail Park is bringing people and nature together safely, both in person and online
In response to pandemic-driven demand for accessible parks and public space, Friends of the Rail Park has released a full slate of new opportunities for Philadelphians to connect with the Rail Park, each other, and the city. This new programmatic strategy integrates hybrid in-person and virtual programming focused on nature, wellness, arts and culture, increasing accessibility and enabling people to enjoy the park in person or at home.
“The ability to connect with nature and other people has been so crucial for people's wellbeing through the pandemic, particularly in an area of the city that has historically lacked access to green space,” said Rebecca Cordes Chan, Executive Director of Friends of the Rail Park. “Our new programming options aim to make the benefits of the Rail Park accessible to everyone, while adhering to the precautions advised by the city.”
Philadelphia residents and visitors can now explore the sights, sounds, and spaces of the Rail Park with five episodes of Sounds of the Rail Park: a Friends of the Rail Park podcast available on the Rail Park website and on all streaming major platforms. Listeners can stream Sounds of the Rail Park from the park, from home, or virtually anywhere to explore Phase One with an audio tour, breathe through a guided meditation hosted by Nalaverse, or learn about the Rail Park’s ecology with Land Health Institute. Many episodes are also available to stream in Spanish and Mandarin.
The new Rail Park Youth Ambassador Program promotes park stewardship in young people ages 7-13 and their families with an youth activity guide featuring the history, environment, and mission of the Rail Park, illustrated by six Philadelphia artists: Cindy Lozito, Chenlin Cai, Juan Tang Hon, Kate Otte, Marian Bailey, and Xingzi Liang. The Rail Park Youth Activity guide is available for free download in English, Spanish, and Mandarin on the Rail Park website or in hard copy at Rail Park events.
The Summer Sunset Series has attracted over 200 participants to four limited-registration events at Phase One of the Rail Park for hands-on workshops, community conversations, performances, and mindfulness. The free event series will continue every other Friday evening through September, with events featuring meditation and movement sessions with Nalaverse, community conversations with CRAFTED, and performances by artist William Doughtery and Kun Yang Lin Dancers.
Engagement will crescendo through the fall as Friends of the Rail Park lays the groundwork for a campaign to reintroduce the three mile vision for the Rail Park, and seek community contributions to the Rail Park Time Capsule: a digital archive that highlights and preserves what Philadelphians love about the past and present of their neighborhoods, and what their hopes are for the future, and will serve as the basis for plans for the Rail Park's growth. The Friends of the Rail Park team will ramp up their engagement efforts online and in person in September to collect written, visual, and audio Time Capsule submissions.
Friends of the Rail Park
Founded in 2010 after years of advocacy by a committed group of community members, Friends of the Rail Park (FRP) is the non-profit organization that drives the vision behind the transformation of historic rail lines that traverse Philadelphia into the Rail Park. FRP’s mission is to build bold, transformative, and inclusive public space that connects Philadelphia’s residents and visitors to the city and each other. Working in close partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, FRP is part of a growing international movement of infrastructure reuse projects, supporting community development and transforming cities in the process.
The Rail Park is a vision for a three-mile linear park and multi-use pathway connecting 10 distinct Philadelphia neighborhoods and 50+ city blocks along the site of former historic Reading and Pennsylvania Railroad lines. The above and below grade site offers an opportunity to create a world class public space driven by collaborating with communities from every corner of the city, building from existing cultural assets, promoting health and wellness, and advancing equitable access to the investment in this large-scale public works project, positioning the park as an integral part of comprehensive community development in Philadelphia.
Open to the public since June 2018, Phase One of the Rail Park is a $13 million project transforming a quarter-mile section of the former Reading Railroad—which reaches from Broad and Noble streets up onto the elevated 1100 block of Callowhill Street in Philadelphia. Serving as a stunning “proof of concept,” Phase One is a welcoming community greenspace, with pathways, low-maintenance perennial plantings, trees, seating, bench-style swings, local art, and elevated city views. The design preserves and restores much of the historic steel viaduct structure, while introducing materials of a similar industrial scale and character.