Philly Proud: Overbrook woman turns her focus to local park

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- For more than 15 years, Nicole Chandler has devoted her extra time to create beautiful spaces in city parks.

The projects are more than just pleasing to the eye, they're also soothing to the soul.

You could say Chandler is a true Philadelphian. She was born, raised, residing for 52 years, and working for Septa for 25 years with near-perfect attendance. Now, she's living in Overbrook, right near Morris Park, which happens to be her current focus.

"Back in 2005, the city of Philadelphia, it was back then it was called The Fairmont Parks Commission. They had written that park out of this budget. So they were basically going to let that park just naturalize, which means just let everything grow wild," she said.

She didn't like what the overgrown park looked like in the neighborhood that she loved so much.

"I just begin clearing the natural lands area with volunteers. We removed over 100 tons of debris, invasive plant, and materials," she said.

That same year, Chandler adopted the park space and started a nonprofit called Keep Royal Gardens Beautiful. The organization has volunteers participate in workshops that encourage using nature as a therapeutic tool.

"Lot of projects in nature, you can release anger, you can release stress, removing invasive plants, or materials such as Japanese knotweed, Milo minute, multifold rolls," she said. "Invasive trees that need to come down. So chopping down trees, doing that type of manual work, it's a stress relief, or it's an aid, it's a natural way to release your anger.

She also built a serenity garden for relaxing and designed a trail lined with signage that prompts thoughts for self-improvement and reflection.

"Everybody is welcomed because mental health is a universal problem. You know, it affects everybody. It has no discrimination," she said. "It's free. It doesn't cost you anything, but learning how to use it as a tool to heal yourself."
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