More upgrades in store for Shissler Rec

Thanks to the Big Green Blocks pro­ject, Shissler Rec will see a new spray park and oth­er cre­at­ive makeovers.

6.2.2011 Phil­adelphia, PA USA Mur­al Arts Seni­or Pro­ject Man­ager Shari Her­sh (far right) con­ducts a meet­ing at Shissler Re­cre­ation Cen­ter in Kens­ing­ton to help design a mur­al for the park and dis­cuss plans for a new child’s spray pool.

Not long ago, Fishtown’s Shissler Re­cre­ation Cen­ter, at 1300 Blair St., was in sore shape.

A cinder field led to skinned knees for loc­al youth for many, many years and the un­paved park­ing lot was rut­ted from years of use, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to nav­ig­ate.

Yet, vis­it today, and the Shissler Rec Cen­ter is a sight to be­hold.

Gone are the cinders, re­placed with a lush grassy field. Gone is the muddy, lumpy park­ing lot, re­placed with new as­phalt, with a new storm wa­ter man­age­ment sys­tem in­stalled to keep the area from flood­ing.

And, there is yet more in store for Shissler.

As part of the on­go­ing Big Green Block pro­ject, an ele­ment of the Sus­tain­able 19125 ini­ti­at­ive of the New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Corp., Shissler will see a new spray park to re­place the wa­ter fea­tures there cur­rently and oth­er ad­ded artist­ic touches.

Rep­res­ent­at­ives from the city’s Mur­al Arts Pro­gram met at Shissler on Thursday, June 2, to dis­cuss the over­haul that will see artist­ic ele­ments ad­ded to the area. Ac­cord­ing to Beverly Fish­er, the Fishtown-based artist who is design­ing the new fea­tures, a new mur­al will re­flect the nature and his­tory of the loc­al com­munity.

“I really want to tap in­to the his­tory of the neigh­bor­hood,” said Fish­er. “My in­terest in the area is that the Delaware River is so close, but it seems so dis­tant be­cause of how the city is built.”

As dis­cussed last week, there will be new fea­tures in­stalled at Shissler that will re­flect the nat­ur­al his­tory of Fishtown.

Already in place, a tact­ile mur­al has been fit­ted against the walls. Here, Fish­er said, she used the foot­prints of birds that make their homes along the shores of the Delaware River and the designs taken from the fo­liage that grows on the ri­verb­anks to design the work.

The designs were then placed low on the wall to al­low chil­dren to run their fin­gers along it and feel the im­prints on the mur­al.

“I like us­ing the lan­guage of the neigh­bor­hood,” she said.

The neigh­bor­hood it­self is util­ized in the re­cently fin­ished mur­al on the wall that sep­ar­ates Shissler from the nearby Kens­ing­ton High School for the Cre­at­ive and Per­form­ing Arts.

This mur­al, said Jocelyn Nel­son, pro­ject co­ordin­at­or for the Mur­al Arts Pro­gram, was in­ten­ded to re­flect the flow of the Delaware River, while the blocky style of the mur­al in­tends to mim­ic the blocks of Fishtown’s urb­an en­vir­on­ment.

“I think of it as a scale change,” she said. “It’s a change to show our re­la­tion­ship with nature.”

Still ahead for Shissler will be new tiles that Fish­er is treat­ing so that it will show pat­terns when wet. It’s a pro­cess she calls “wa­ter­marks” and through a pro­cess she’s been de­vel­op­ing, spe­cif­ic areas of the tile will ab­sorb wa­ter when wet in rain or from the splash foun­tains, while set pat­terns on the tile will not re­tain wa­ter.

It cre­ates a stark im­age that can only be seen when the tiles are wet, she said.

“It’s com­pletely hid­den when dry,” she said. “But, in a heavy rain, the im­age is really crisp.”

Along with these new tiles, a set of “pebble benches” — seat­ing areas cre­ated from large boulder-like stones — will be cre­ated near the splash foun­tain.

Fi­nal plans for the wa­ter fea­ture and oth­er ele­ments re­main­ing at Shissler will be presen­ted dur­ing a pub­lic design re­view meet­ing in Ju­ly, but the pla­cing of the new benches near the park­ing lot is planned to al­low par­ents to watch their kids when they play nearby.

Shari Her­sh, pro­ject man­ager for the Mur­al Arts Pro­gram, said the benches will be cre­ated with the help of loc­al high school stu­dents. By in­clud­ing area youth, she said, the pro­ject al­lows these stu­dents to take own­er­ship of the area and learn about the urb­an en­vir­on­ment.

“It gives the com­munity a way to have a hand on the renov­a­tions and that’s really im­port­ant,” said Her­sh.

Throughout the sum­mer, she said, high school stu­dents will be do­ing on­go­ing work at Shissler. A design re­view meet­ing is planned for Ju­ly.

So far, no date has been set for wrap­ping up the work.

“We are still quite a ways away,” said Her­sh, without giv­ing a pro­spect­ive com­ple­tion date.

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­

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