On an unusually warm November afternoon, the 400 block of Manton Street was overflowing people. The crowd’s focus was Manton Street Park, a small pocket park toward the corner of Manton and 4th streets. In honor of the Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Love Your Park, Saturday, November 16 was the park’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The ceremony included speeches from Mayor Michael Nutter, Councilman Mark Squilla, Susan Slawson of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and Kathryn Ott Lovell from the Fairmount Park Conservancy. The block held a block party which included a stilt performer, the Guerilla Ultima food truck, Federal Donuts and a DJ. Residents spent the day celebrating, with good reason.
Manton Street Park’s very existence is a personal victory for many of the neighbors including Brenda Durbin, who has lived on Manton Street for 40 years.
“It was vacant for years,” Durbin said. “It was the neighbors who fought to rejuvenate the park and it keep it together.”
The vacant land on Manton Street was bought by a developer. Three houses were built on an unused portion of the lot but the Manton Street Park and and Community Garden was allowed to stay. The Friends of Manton Street worked with the developer, US Construction, in order to make this happen.
“What could have been really difficult turned into something truly amazing that I think can be a real model for other communities,” Kathryn Ott Lovell explained. “And that is that the developer and the community worked together.”
The design and vision for the park was created by the neighbors and residents demonstrating how much they care about their area. It was this passion and effort from the community which made the park a space appreciated not only by the residents but by the city. Susan Slawson of the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation addressed the importance of community.
“Community, it’s all about you,” Slawson said. “Everything we do is all about you. We make decisions based on what you want to see. What’s wonderful to know is that this design is result of a few meetings with the community. This is your vision. This is not Parks and Rec’s vision. This is what you wanted to see here in your neighborhood. Thank you for fighting for this space.”
Manton Street Park may be small but the space is the result of a community that has worked hard for their vision.