Should Will Smith spend part of this summertime at The Plateau, he'll find a new grove of trees, dedicated this week in honor of both a long-time Fairmount Park advocate and a still-growing group of people who strive through leadership, generosity and commitment to improve Philadelphia's parks.
The John K. Binswanger Grove of Park Champions' namesake is the chairman of Binswanger, a family operated international real estate organization. Binswanger, the man, served as a Fairmount Park Commissioner from 1998 to 2009. In 1998, he and others founded the Fairmount Park Conservancy, a park stewardship organization that works in collaboration with the city, and Binswanger became its first president. He is today chairman of the Conservancy's board.
The John K. Binswanger Park Champion Award was created by the Conservancy in 2012 to honor their leader's 80th birthday. Each tree in the Grove of Champions honors an award winner. So far there are seven trees in the grove at Belmont Plateau- three green mountain sugar maples, two sweetgums and two swamp white oaks.
Four trees have their champions: Phillies’ first baseman Ryan Howard, who launched his foundation with a gift to the Hunting Park Revitalization project. Tennis legend Billie Jean King and NFL-record breaking quarterback and MVP Ron Jaworski were each presented with the award for their tremendous support of the Hunting Park Revitalization project. Patricia Kind is the most recent winner, in acknowledgement of her dedication to and support of the Fairmount Park Conservancy over the past fifteen years.
The three remaining trees will be linked to champions of their own in coming years, and then more trees will be planted as future champions are selected by the conservancy at their spring Centennial Celebration event.