Victory for Burholme Park: Commonwealth Upholds Orphans’ Court Decision

After months of deliberations, the  Court in the  case of In re Estate of Ryerss, 987 A.2d 1231 (Pa. Commw. Ct. , 2009) denied the City’s request to turn over 19.4 acres of parkland to Fox Chase Cancer Center for its expansion.

The unanimous decision of the seven member panel of judges dismissed the city’s arguments that continuing to use Burholme Park as parkland was not the most beneficial use, and would not best serve the public interest.

The court determined that the language of the law “focuses on whether the original use has ceased to serve the public interest and did not allow for a balancing of benefits.”

In the decision released yesterday, Commonwealth Court Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer wrote, “if it did permit such balancing, every donated park in the Commonwealth would be at risk of being leased so that cash-strapped municipalities could balance their budgets.”

Scenic Philadelphia’s team of volunteer attorneys and experts represented neighbors and users of Burholme Park who were granted standing to intervene in the case then before Orphans Court Judge John Herron.

The Commonwealth Court decision is a wonderful victory and will help preserve parkland for future generations by reminding elected leaders that: “so long as a community or neighborhood actively uses dedicated park land, the City is required to hold such land in trust for their use, is legally estopped from divesting such land and is required to maintain these open spaces as public parks.” Orphan’s Court Opinion -Judge Herron, 12/8/09

Supporting the Work of Scenic Philadelphia:

Over five years ago a neighbor and user of Burholme Park contacted Scenic Philadelphia and asked, “Can you help us save our park?”

Thanks to the support of our members and friends, Scenic Philadelphia has been there: to educate citizens about the law, to research and help develop policies that benefit the public space, and when necessary… to leverage the law.

Scenic Philadelphia proudly represented the public interests of this tenacious and dedicated group of Burholme Park neighbors by recruiting a volunteer legal team, working with our clients in the neighborhood, researching the legal strategy that would hopefully win this case and putting in hundreds of hours of hard work.

Please take a moment and celebrate this great victory with us by Donating to Scenic Philadelphia and providing the resources we need to continue the important work of being “the public voice for public space. “