Parks advocates led by the Philadelphia Parks Alliance gathered on the afternoon of April 21 for a “Rec It Philly” rally at City Hall. Mayor Jim Kenney’s 2023 budget proposal asks for a $2.5 million increase over 2022 funding for Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, less than the $8 million increase that the Parks Alliance says is necessary.
Speakers—including City Councilmembers Cherelle Parker and Jamie Gauthier, as well as Parks Alliance executive director Alex Doty—talked about the chronic underfunding of programming and facilities maintenance. Parks & Recreation currently has a total of 271 full-time program staff, along with seasonal and part-time personnel, to cover more than 300 recreation centers, playgrounds and pools. Doty also noted the need to fund the city’s soon-to-be-released plan to increase the urban tree canopy as well as the removal of a backlog of dead street and park trees.
Councilmember Parker responded to an attendee carrying a sign demanding funding for people in addition to buildings. “We deserve all the modernization, the technology and quality recreation centers,” Parker said, “but if someone is not paid to organize this in every recreation center across the City of Philadelphia, the work won’t get done appropriately.”
Councilmember Gauthier drew a link between the city’s epidemic of gun violence and cuts to funding for parks, recreation centers, libraries and other community resources. “It’s places like our parks and rec centers that keep our kids safe in the first place, that provide them with enriching activities and just allow them to be kids.”