WHAT Independence Park is to this country - a sacred space embodying our history and identity - LOVE Park is to the city.

In many ways, LOVE Park (officially, JFK Plaza) might be considered Independence Park 2.0.

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It was created in 1965 - the brainchild of uber-city planner Edmund Bacon - with the iconic Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture installed during the country's bicentennial, and since then it has become a nexus for public gathering, public protest - and, unfortunately, too often public urination.

Despite the fact that the sculpture and its home are among the most familiar and recognizable sights in the world, the city hasn't always shown the park the love it deserves.

Too often, this virtual front gate to the grand, sweeping cultural boulevard of the Ben Franklin Parkway has lacked proper maintenance and care. Yet, despite that, it's one of the city's premier public gathering spaces.

The space has even become a symbol of robust public debate, especially when skateboarders who loved its angles and planes resisted being elbowed out, pushing back on attempted bans and ultimately failed compromises.

A new $15 million park renovation is long overdue, and should be completed next year. Much of the money will be coming from the sale of the parking garage that sits under the park.

That took some wrangling, since Mayor Nutter's proposal to fund the refurbishment with the sale proceeds prompted City Council President Darrell Clarke to try to derail that plan and instead push for a horrifying food-court scenario for the park.

(Note to Clarke: Public space requires public input. Takes more time, but better ideas result.)

The two reached a workable agreement that left the focus on green space, but what's more important is that the agreement has also allowed for a more public process.

So far, the Parks and Recreation Department has held a series of meetings inviting public input; the most recent was this week, where Hargreaves Associates and others presented four options for recreating the park.

One of those options appears here; you can see all four options at philly.com/lovepark. Register your comments by emailing info@fairmountparkconservancy.org.

On April 30, the Parks and Recreation Department will hold another public meeting before presenting the plan to the Art Commission. Construction is due to begin next spring.

Whether you review the plans and share input, or show up at a meeting, make your voice heard.

LOVE Park is one of the city's definitive public spaces, and widespread participation in the process will remind our public officials that this is a city of engaged citizens.

We can't think of anything better for democracy - or for the place where democracy was born.