Temple University boathouse proposal raises concerns for parks advocates

Temple University’s hope of building a new boathouse on Kelly Drive is far from a sure thing.

In anticipation of a public meeting Wednesday on the proposed structure, the Philadelphia Parks Alliance, an advocacy group, issued a statement that says, “While many are not opposed to Temple’s boathouse per se, there is growing public concern that Temple’s proposal does not meet the mandates of the new Protection Ordinance.”

The ordinance, signed by Mayor Nutter in April 2011, says that any changes such as the boathouse must mean there is “no net loss of park land.”

Temple wants to build a 23,000 square-foot boathouse near the Strawberry Mansion bridge, a plan that offers the first test of the new law.

The ordinance directs organizations such as Temple to buy or transfer comparable park land, but the university has instead proposed contributing $1.5 million to repair the East Park Canoe House, a city-owned building that once housed Temple’s rowing program. In 2008, the city said the structure was unsafe and closed it.

The public discussion of Temple’s plan is at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Lloyd Hall.

Here is the rest of the statement from the Parks Alliance:

Temple's Boathouse Proposal Concerns Park Advocates

On Wednesday January 16th, 6pm at Lloyd Hall, the Commission on Parks and Recreation will hear public testimony on the first major test of Philadelphia’s new Open Lands Protection Ordinance.  While many are not opposed to Temple’s boathouse per se, there is growing public concern that Temple’s proposal does not meet the mandates of the new Protection Ordinance.

A major concern for park and recreation advocates is that Temple’s proposal does not include a plan for Substitute Land, as the Ordinance requires. 

“The Parks Alliance is not opposed to Temple building a boathouse in Fairmount Park, but it is essential that their project adhere to the unambiguous requirements of the Open Lands Protection Ordinance, particularly to ensure that there is no net loss of parkland” says Lauren Bornfriend, Executive director of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance.

In public comments submitted to the Commission on Parks and Recreation, the Parks Alliance states that:

  • Temple’s proposal to waive the unambiguous requirement of the Open Lands Protection Ordinance to provide Substitute Land is unacceptable.
  • The Commission should reject the Alternative Analysis as administratively incomplete because it does not contain a description of the proposed Substitute Land.
  • Temple should have met with a more diverse group of stakeholders including Friends Groups and Recreation Advisory Councils.
  •   The Commission should condition any approval of the Alternatives Analysis on certain commitments by Temple such as specific trail setback distance, a plan to compensate park users for tree canopy loss, and to use green infrastructure to manage storm water runoff.

“This is a historic and critical ordinance that the Parks Alliance together with the Commission; community organizations; and government officials  worked hard to achieve,” says Bornfriend, “Now the Commission, City Council and the Administration must strictly enforce this hard-won legislation so that future generations can continue to enjoy Philadelphia’s extraordinary park and recreation resources.”

The Open Lands Protection Ordinance was drafted by the Commission on Parks and Recreation with input from the public, experts, government officials and key stakeholders. The legislation was amended, then unanimously passed by City Council and was signed into law by Mayor Nutter in April 2011.




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