Sponsored Content: Community volunteers, with the help of nonprofit and private sector, create urban pollinator habitat in Point Breeze park


There’s a buzz around the new native plant habitats at Wharton Square Park in Point Breeze, and it’s spread all the way to Harrisburg.

On April 30, the Friends of Wharton Square Park, in partnership with the Penn State Extension Master Watershed Stewards of Philadelphia County, received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for the volunteer-built gardens — the only Philadelphia-specific recipient.

“Our win speaks to the urgent need for more natural spaces, more native plants and more greenery in communities like Point Breeze that suffer greater consequences from climate change, like flooding, poor air quality and negative psychological and educational outcomes,” Stephanie Gregerman, project organizer and Point Breeze resident, says.

This award is really just the start … The real dream is to see native habitat plantings like this across Philadelphia.”

— Stephanie Gregerman, project organizer and Point Breeze resident

In June 2023 a community event was held where over 40 volunteers prepped soil with compost, planted, mulched and watered 600 plants — 16 different species — for a network of eight native plant gardens in high-visibility areas.

“It was an ambitious project, especially because we wanted to create a planting event that provided more than just a volunteer opportunity — we truly wanted to teach more about the importance of native plants and to inspire our neighbors,” Gregerman says.

The gardens are designated a Watershed Friendly Property and a Pollinator Habitat through the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, an international nonprofit that provided the plants at no cost.

The project was designed to maximize the environmental impact of unused and underused areas, creating habitats for pollinators, and better supporting the urban ecosystem and resident health. The gardens also fill a large gap in native habitat by connecting Center City spaces like Rittenhouse Square and the Southwest Center City Pollinator Pathway to bigger areas like FDR Park.

“It’s always amazing to see how fast native pollinators and birds show up wherever we plant native plants, even in the city,’” says Anne Boyd, founder of the Southwest Center City chapter of the national Pollinator Pathway and a team leader for the layout and planting of the Wharton Square Park project. “Human health and well-being depends on our public green spaces, but our urban parks are also a place to support and experience biodiversity close to home.”

Vicinity Energy, a sustainable district energy provider located in Grays Ferry, funded a $1,700 zero-emissions water wagon machine which allowed volunteers to water in areas of the park that previously could not be reached.

“Vicinity is thrilled to partner with the Friends of Wharton Square Park. It’s truly our honor to have supported the funding for the water wagon machine, empowering the team to breathe new life into previously neglected areas by cultivating native plant species gardens,” states Matt O’Malley, chief sustainability officer of Vicinity. “We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors in building a cleaner, greener and more sustainable Philadelphia.”

“This award is really just the start,” Gregerman added. “It will hopefully be the catalyst for more native plantings, connecting places like Schuylkill River Park, Julian Abele Park and Bartram’s Garden … The real dream is to see native habitat plantings like this across Philadelphia.”

A ceremony recognizing the award in Point Breeze on PA Native Species Day on May 16 is planned, with state and Philadelphia city officials expected to attend.

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