ISSUE | PHILADELPHIA SIGHTS

Flower Show with a parks touch

For nine days this month, visitors could hike from Independence National Historical Park to Acadia, Cape Cod, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Olympia, and dozens of other national parks and historic sites - all within a few hours of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's

2016 Philadelphia Flower Show hosted 255,000 guests for "Explore America," a celebration of the

100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Park rangers from around the country greeted visitors and shared their experiences, while others led virtual adventures by webcam. They also welcomed "junior rangers" who took an oath to appreciate and protect our nation's beautiful and historic sites.

The society is grateful to the NPS for this partnership, which included visits by Director Jonathan Jarvis, who presented an award to Temple University Ambler for its exhibit, and Deputy Director Peggy O'Dell, who presented a program for International Women's Day.

We also thank our exhibitors, volunteers, and partners for the success of this tribute to the American landscape. And we thank all of you for supporting the national parks and your neighborhood parks and gardens, helping us create beautiful, healthy, and sustainable communities.

|Matt Rader, president, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, president@pennhort.org

In defense of tourism agency

An Inquirer editorial criticized Visit Philadelphia's board and its CEO, Meryl Levitz, for decisions about an employee's alleged embezzlement ("Visit Philly's wrong turn," Friday). The Inquirer is undoubtedly right that the employee should have been referred for prosecution almost immediately. It is also right that under Levitz's leadership, Visit Philadelphia has been a major factor in making this city a tourism destination.

The editorial implied that the incident may have done lasting damage to Visit Philadelphia and Levitz's reputation. I disagree. As the Inquirer said, Visit Philly is not without its flaws. But isn't that true of almost any organization? Government agencies can be flawed, Fortune 500 companies can be flawed, and I would hazard a guess that even the Inquirer might be flawed.

The truth is that Meryl Levitz is a civic treasure. Her leadership has produced a staff so capable and dedicated that the city has made incredible progress. When the New York Times listed 52 places to visit in 2015, Philadelphia was No. 3. Visit Philly also broke ground in advertising to the gay community. And the "Philly's More Fun When You Sleep Over" campaign helped Philadelphia achieve the most successful post-9/11 tourism recovery. I could go on.

Visit Philadelphia should be very proud of all the men and women who work there and particularly of Levitz.

|Ed Rendell, Philadelphia