Discovery Garden Expansion

Located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Logan Square at 18th Street, Sister Cities Park was first dedicated in 1976 in recognition of Philadelphia’s commitment to the international Sister Cities program. Transformed in 2012 by the Center City District from a forgotten space into one of the nation’s leading multi-generational parks, Sister Cities Park is a favorite destination for families with children, school and daycare groups, local workers, seniors and visitors.

The park’s discovery garden is a favorite experience for children, modeled after the winding paths, mountains and streams of Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Valley. Sister Cities Park’s earth fountain offers young children the chance to play among dancing spouts of water, each jet representing one of Philadelphia’s Sister Cities. A children’s book cart and pint-sized Adirondack chairs offer time for quiet and relaxation. Sister Cities Park is active in the winter months as well, when the pond is converted into an Imagination Playground.

Based on conversations with parents and children, we want to offer even more.


Enhancing Sister Cities Park

To help evaluate what enhancements to make to Sister Cities Park, Center City District engaged the expertise of Studio Ludo, specializing in building better play through research, design and advocacy, and Studio Bryan Hanes, an urban design and landscape architecture firm that created the 2012 redesign of Sister Cities Park.

In fall 2018, Studio Ludo spent two weekends observing how children and parents interacted with the park and conducted over 50 interviews, gauging what users liked about Sister Cities Park, and what could be improved.

Center City District seeks to build on what makes Sister Cities Park so beloved, retaining the intimate and natural feel of the park while offering new components for unstructured play that engage children from a broader range of ages, encourage safe risk-taking, activate their imagination and supports social, physical, cognitive, and creative growth. Many of these new additions will be accessible year-round, keeping the park active in the colder months.

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Climbing net
Behind the peak of the mountain in the Discovery Garden, we are installing a large platform that takes advantage of the beautiful Center City views from the summit, creates room for increased seating, and supports a large climbing net for children. Climbing nets promote coordination by honing strength and reflexes, enable children to safely test mental and physical limits, and instill a sense of confidence and accomplishment.

Water pump
Two pumps will be installed at the top of the mountain, welcoming children to manually propel water into the stream. The water pump station encourages active and physical play and makes kids more aware of how they can use their body. The pumps will also encourage communication between children as they invent games using this new sensory experience.

Sluice gates
To complement the water pumps, we are extending the flow of the creek and adding sluice gates to invite further interaction and experimentation. Sluice gates will allow children to dam or redirect the water within the canal, creating even more opportunity for interaction among children as they work together to explore this new challenge.

Log scramble
The log scramble introduces a climbing structure to Sister Cities Park’s offerings. The apparatus provides opportunity for older children to build gross motor skills, balance, problem solving and calculated risk-taking as they navigate their way to the top. The log scramble has a maximum height of six feet with a soft and cushioned mulch-like surface below and is safe for age-appropriate use.

Hiding huts
Three new hiding huts along the trail up the mountain will allow kids to hide and “disappear,” rest, or take part in a quiet activity like reading or coloring. The huts will be made of logs six inches in diameter, and carefully assembled so that children remain visible to their caregivers at all times.

Make your mark on Sister Cities Park and support the expansion of the Discovery Garden! Your investment in Sister Cities Park will spark curiosity and foster creativity in the next generation of Philadelphians. Click here to donate now. 

To learn more about how you can support this CCDF project, please contact:
Katie Andrews
Director of Development