Not your average walk in the park

— Russo Park has un­der­gone more than $576,000 in renov­a­tions and is now once again open to the pub­lic.

Saint Hubert’s seni­or stu­dent Jes­sica Bre­an­ing, 17, looks back as she climbs the new play­ground equipt­ment at Russo Park. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

Mi­chael DiB­er­ardinis views Russo Park as a gate­way to the North­east.

DiB­er­ardinis, com­mis­sion­er of the city De­part­ment of Parks and Re­cre­ation, notes the high num­ber of vehicles who drive west on Cottman Av­en­ue after ex­it­ing I-95.

That’s why he likes the way the play­ground looks today after more than $576,000 in renov­a­tions. Loc­ated at Tor­res­dale and Cottman av­en­ues, the play­ground is widely used by the com­munity and St. Hubert High School sports teams.

“This is beau­ti­ful,” he said re­cently at the of­fi­cial grand re-open­ing of the play­ground.

The work took place from Oc­to­ber 2011 un­til May of this year. It ori­gin­ally was fun­ded while Coun­cil­wo­man Joan Kra­jew­ski was rep­res­ent­ing the 6th Coun­cil­man­ic Dis­trict. Today, Kra­jew­ski is re­tired. She did not at­tend the Nov. 20 event.

Coun­cil­man Bobby Hen­on, Kra­jew­ski’s suc­cessor, said he’s been happy to see the play area packed with kids since the re-open­ing in late  spring.

“It looks fant­ast­ic,” he said of the over­haul.

The work was over­seen by De­borah Cahill, ar­chi­tec­tur­al pro­jects co­ordin­at­or for the city De­part­ment of Pub­lic Prop­erty, and Kev­in Sel­ger, seni­or land­scape ar­chi­tect/pro­ject man­ager for Gilmore & As­so­ci­ates Inc., a Lang­horne-based en­gin­eer­ing and con­sult­ing firm.

Pre­vi­ously, there were sep­ar­ate play areas for tots and older chil­dren. Today, those areas have been con­sol­id­ated.

“The pur­pose was to have one space for fam­il­ies to come to,” Cahill said.

The swings and play equip­ment are com­ple­men­ted by benches, trash cans, fen­cing, pav­ing and safety mat­ting.

“Safety is our No. 1 con­cern in any pro­ject,” Cahill said.

The area also in­cludes a “spray­ground” for use in warm weath­er. There are three ground jets, and wa­ter also squirts out on the sides of a gi­ant or­ange cray­on.

The bas­ket­ball courts that used to be in the cur­rent play­ground area have been moved to an area some­what in the middle of the park that had been the site of an un­der­used foot hockey rink.

The re­cre­ation cen­ter build­ing, which formerly had a blue ex­ter­i­or, is now beige after a fresh coat of paint.

The former tot lot area and oth­er parts of fields were re­graded and re­seeded. There’s new light­ing and land­scap­ing, along with a sur­veil­lance cam­era sys­tem. Al­most 200 feet of con­crete was re­placed along Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue, and 30 trees were planted.

The guest list at the re­open­ing in­cluded state Sen. Mike Stack, St. Hubert pres­id­ent Frank Far­rell and ad­vis­ory board chair­wo­man Kath­ryn Ott Lov­ell and civic lead­ers from Holmes­burg and Ta­cony.

Once of­fi­cials used gi­ant scis­sors to cut the ce­re­mo­ni­al rib­bon, the St. Hubert stu­dents and the Bambi mas­cot climbed on the equip­ment for some end-of-day fun.

St. Hubert uses the fields for varsity soc­cer and soft­ball prac­tices and field hockey, lacrosse and flag foot­ball games and ten­nis matches.

The ten­nis courts, which were not part of the renov­a­tions, could use some tender lov­ing care. Ac­tu­ally, a lot of TLC.

The pro­ject had to be com­pleted with­in a budget. The total price tag was $576,120.18, and the city is happy with the way the play­ground looks.

“We tried to make it look as big as pos­sible,” Cahill said. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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