By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s first park, Fairmount Park, offers all of us a refuge from the bustling city. Now, it is getting some well-earned accolades from an organization representing the field of urban planning.

Fairmount Park is named one of five Great Public Spaces in the US by the American Planning Association.

Association board member Courtenay Mercer told a crowd at Boathouse Row that it represents “the gold standard” in public spaces.

“Fairmount Park really has it all. You have orchards, greenhouses, historic and cultural sites, playgrounds, recreation facilities.”

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell says, “It validates what we’ve already known, which is that we have one of the single greatest cultural treasures in the country right here in our own backyard, the Fairmount Park system.”

The APA says Fairmount Park “represents one of the first efforts to protect a municipal watershed by dramatically altering land uses to both mitigate pollution and create a space for public recreation.”

Philadelphia began drawing its drinking water from the Schuylkill River in 1815. Lovell says Fairmount Park was originally created to help protect the city’s water supply.

“We were thinking about that over 200 years ago, so it’s an incredible innovative park system, then and now.”

Reporter: The dimensions along are astounding as far as its footprint in the city.

“It is a huge park, over 10,000 acres of parkland. when people think of it, they note east and west Fairmount Park, but they don’t realize that there are hundreds of neighborhood parks that are part of the system.”

The other top public spaces were Golden Heart Plaza – a riverfront gathering center – in Fairbanks, Alaska, Central Park Plaza – a transformed parking lot – in Valparaiso, Indiana, Findlay Market – a Reading Terminal like market – in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Guthrie Green – a former industrial site – in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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