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Here’s the story behind those “Have You Seen This Park?” signs around Philly

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It’s part of the Rail Park’s new campaign

The “Have You Seen This Park” signs are part of a bigger campaign to raise awareness about the Rail Park.
Courtesy of Mike Smith

If you’ve spent any time meandering along Pennsylvania Avenue recently, you might have noticed some signs posted with the words "Have You Seen This Park?" printed across the neon paper.

"It’s raw, it’s rough, it’s beautiful," the sign reads. "Loves people, but tends to hide above, below, and between streets."

It answers to a number of names, it continues, but its real name is The Rail Park.

The bright signs are part of a bigger campaign to raise awareness about the Rail Park, the abandoned rail line that stretches three miles through 10 Philly neighborhoods and across 50 city blocks. For years, it’s been called everything from the Reading Viaduct Park to the Viaduct Rail Park to the Railroad Reading Tunnel.

And for years, people have been waiting to see the vision for its revitalization to become reality. The first phase of the park, which has been proposed as Philly’s version of the High Line in New York, has had to push back its groundbreaking year after year, month after month, much in part due to funding tied up in the state budget.

Friends of the Rail Park vice president Michael Garden says Center City District is still waiting for state approval of it’s $3.5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant request, the final piece of funding needed to break ground.

Meanwhile, the Friends of the Rail Park decided it was time to build a cohesive identity for the stretch of green space near North Broad street. The non-profit organization teamed up with local design team Smith & Diction to develop a campaign for the park.

" Our organization was looking for a more inspiring and distinctive mark that said ‘Rail Park’ with or without words and one that would [...] speak to a wide variety of audiences, stakeholders and supporters," says Garden. "The Rail Park is envisioned as a public space for all and we wanted a brand that shared that message."

In addition to a new logo, maps, and buttons, the rebranding of the Rail Park included this DIY "verrrrry low budget" ad campaign that involved posting up the bright-colored signs up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, says Mike Smith, Smith & Diction co-founder and art director.

In a Medium article, Smith explains:

We developed some fliers that could be printed on some obnoxious day-glo paper from FedEx. It’s a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek play on a lost dog poster. Playing up the idea that this park wants people to visit, it’s just a little skittish and needs a little bit of love.

Currently, the signs can be found between 21st and 25th along Pennsylvania Avenue, though Smith says he hopes to be able to post more in the future. They’ve also made the signs available to print at home.

Garden, who leads the tours of the Rail Park advertised on the signs, adds that the re-branding shifts focus of the attention from his organization to the park itself. "It’s not about us, its about the Rail Park."