2019 Liff Spirit Awardee

Kathyrn Ott Lovell

Commissioner, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Kathryn Ott Lovell.

Kathryn Ott Lovell’s work in Philadelphia with the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation and previously the Fairmount Park Conservancy demonstrates a successful public-private partnership – a model the Emerald Necklace Conservancy strives to practice and hone for the benefit of Boston’s Emerald Necklace. Through projects such as Reimagining the Civic Commons and programs like the annual Love Your Park Week and fall service days, the Parks on Tap traveling beer garden, and The Oval+ pop-up park, Kathryn’s example has set a gold standard for how municipal parks departments and privately funded nonprofit organizations can work together to create world class parks and programming for the benefit of all residents. Her successes to move forward public-private partnerships in Philadelphia embody the spirit of Justine Mee Liff, who was a true convener and unifier.

Kathryn was appointed commissioner of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation by Mayor Jim Kenney in January 2016. In this position, Kathryn oversees 700 full-time employees, more than 2,700 part-time and seasonal employees, over 10,200 acres of land, 500 buildings, 272 miles of trail, 250 playgrounds, and thousands of programs and events throughout Philadelphia’s parks and recreation system.

In 2017, Kathryn commissioned the first strategic plan for Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. The plan, Our Path to 2020, established a renewed vision for the department and set in motion a powerful trajectory toward an equitable and exceptional parks and recreation system that connects people to each other, to enriching experiences, and to the natural world. The plan emphasizes citizen-centric service; high quality, relevant, and accessible programs; and a commitment to well-maintained assets.

Kathryn has presented widely on topics ranging from urban forestry, to climate change, to why parks are crucial to our future. Notable speaking and panel appearances include the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW), National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Conference, the City Parks Alliance’s Greater & Greener Conference, and the One Water Summit. Last year, she served as the 2018 NRPA Robert W. Crawford Lecturer.

Currently, Kathryn serves on the board of directors for the Please Touch Museum, Schuylkill River Development Corporation, Parkway Council, Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Sports Congress.

Liff Spirit Award

The Liff Spirit Award, named for Justine Mee Liff, Boston’s Commissioner of Parks and Recreation from 1996 to 2002, honors the vision, wisdom, humanity and joy that Justine brought to her work as a champion of the open, green spaces that are so vital to our daily life. It is presented annually at the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s Party in the Park to an individual or individuals whose leadership, commitment to cities, passion for public places, dedication the democratic ideals fostered in urban parks, and ability to inspire public servants and private citizens to join together in common cause best reflects Justine’s spirit and legacy.

Past Recipients

2018
Kelsey Wirth
Founder, Mothers Out Front

2017
Whitney Hatch
Chairman, DCR Stewardship Council

2016
Ropes & Gray
Celebrating 150 Year Anniversary

2015
Mark Volpe
Managing Director, Boston Symphony Orchestra

2014
Elizabeth Barlow Rogers
Founder, Central Park Conservancy

2013
Thomas M. and Angela Menino
Mayor and First Lady, City of Boston

2012
Malcolm Rogers
Ann and Graham Gund Director,
Museum of Fine Arts Boston

2011
Valerie Burns
President, Boston Natural Areas Network

2010
Charles Ansbacher
Conductor and Founder,
Boston Landmark Orchestra

2009
Michael and Kitty Dukakis
Former Governor and First Lady,
Commonwealth of Massachusetts

2008
Joan and Ted Cutler
Philanthropists

2007
Agnes “Diddy” Cullinane
Founder, Black and White Boston

2006
Henry Lee
Founder, Friends of the Public Garden

2005
Eugenie Beal
Founding Chair, Boston Conservation Commission
Founding Member, Emerald Necklace Conservancy

Norman Leventhal
Founder, The Beacon Companies