Kids don’t wait for ribbons to be cut when there’s new playground equipment to test out. A hour before the official, postponed-a-couple-times, grand reopening of the small park at Hedge and Plum streets in Frankford on July 9, the young clientele was up on the new gear, giving it some appreciative squeals of approval.
Renovating the “pocket park” with new playground equipment, benches, trees and a workout station for adults took some money and a little patience.
OK, maybe a lot of patience.
The idea for making the long-neglected parcel into a neighborhood asset germinated a few years back when Kimberly Washington, executive director of the Frankford Community Development Corporation, and legislative candidate Jason Dawkins started pitching it to the neighbors who live around Hedge Street, Wilmot Park at Mulberry and Meadow, and a small weed-filled lot at Tackawanna and Meadow.
Those interested formed the Frankford Parks Group. The organization, now headed by Frankford resident Tony Smith, started small and stayed small, but results grew over time.
Wilmot, across from the Second Baptist Church of Frankford, was restored and enhanced. Its basketball court was cleaned and painted. Playground equipment was installed. A flagpole was raised. A block down Meadow at Tackawanna, the lot was cleared of trash and debris. Eventually, it became a community garden with vegetables and flowers. Its one tree was joined by several others that surround a stone path near new fencing.
None of that happened overnight, and both sites had to be cleaned and recleaned by volunteers.
Over at Hedge Street, which once had a pool, a battle with weeds went on for years, with the weeds usually winning. There was a large mural depicting local history on two of the walls that line Hedge Street, but they were so frequently graffitied that the mural finally had to be painted over.
The little Hedge Street park was the last of the three targeted properties to be completed. It’s an asset neighbors have pledged to keep an asset.
City Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez (D-7th dist.), Dawkins’ former boss, arranged for the city money to pay for the new gear, and she got a lot of thanks from Washington.
Addressing a good-sized crowd of residents, the councilwoman asked them to “keep it clean and keep it safe. … We need your cooperation. This is for you.”
“This is your park,” Smith said. “The city is not going to give you anything if you don’t take care of it.” ••