Natural Lands announced the organization has been awarded the Green and Sustainable Parks award from the Pennsylvania Recreation and Parks Society (PRPS). The award honors Natural Lands’ work—along with partners Brandywine Health Foundation and the City of Coatesville—to revitalize Coatesville’s Palmer Park.

Once considered the “Pittsburgh of the East” because of its then-thriving steel industry, Coatesville has faced the same economic and social challenges that other steel towns have experienced following the industry’s decline. At Palmer Park, a one-acre neighborhood park on the east end of Coatesville, the City’s challenges were evident. A chain-link fence and barbed wire surrounded a swimming pool that had been closed for more than a decade.

Today, this section of Palmer Park has been transformed, a revitalization made possible through the Greening Coatesville initiative: a partnership of the City of Coatesville, Brandywine Health Foundation, and Natural Lands. The old pool has been replaced by a unique nature and water play area that includes a splashpad, a man-made stream, and wading area. There is now a circular plaza surrounded by benches where neighbors can relax and watch the children play. From the plaza, a series of concrete paths wind through the park past inviting grassy areas, newly planted shade trees, scattered boulders, and several “nature play” features.

Palmer Park’s new design reduced the amount of impervious hardscaping and includes rain gardens to collect site runoff and help filter and recharge the groundwater. The water play system includes a recirculating pump to reduce wasted water. And all the plants installed at Palmer Park are native species.

“The PA Recreation and Parks Society is pleased to present their 2020 Green and Sustainable Parks award to Natural Lands for their efforts in the revitalization of Palmer Park,” said Barry Bessler, chairman of the

PRPS Recognition and Awards Committee. “The PRPS Green and Sustainable Park award is presented annually to recognize excellence in the public park community for those agencies that demonstrate the integration of green and sustainable development and maintenance practices. The work of Natural Lands, Brandywine Health Foundation and the city of Coatesville to rejuvenate this one-acre community park is an exemplary model of design and vision to create a public space worthy of receiving this award.”

Better access to parks has been shown to result in a 25 percent increase in people exercising three or more days per week. In southeastern PA, a study found more than $1.3 billion in avoided annual health costs due to access to parks and open space. Parks have also been demonstrated to improve community safety by reducing crime and violence in the vicinity.

“The revitalization of Palmer Park is proof that wonderful things can be accomplished when the community, businesses, and government come together,” noted Oliver Bass, president of Natural Lands. “This new playground offers an innovative opportunity for people to play and learn about important environmental issues that affect Coatesville.”

Community parks like Palmer Park are vital for connecting children—and their caregivers—to nature. In its new, revitalized form, Palmer Park is seeing an increase in visitors. By incorporating nature play elements, Palmer Park brings a bit of the natural world to the City of Coatesville.

Additional support for the revitalization of Palmer Park has come from: American Water Charitable Foundation, ArcelorMittal, Chester County, Citadel, the National Recreation and Park Association, Shreiner Tree Care, The Walt Disney Company’s Meet Me at the Park Play Spaces Program, and gifts to Natural Lands’ Campaign for Humans and Nature.