Local residents were invited to a meeting at Shissler Recreation Center on Thursday, Feb. 28, to view two possible plans for a new playground at Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown.
The meeting was hosted by the Friends of Penn Treaty Park, the Department of Public Property and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation.
“What we plan to present is a culmination of a series of discussions involving the play area and the park,” Stephanie Craighead, director of planning, preservation and property management for Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, announced at the meeting.
While this was the first time residents saw the final plans, the initial concept for a new playground began over two years ago when the City of Philadelphia and the Friends of Penn Treaty Park commissioned Studio Bryan Hanes, a Philadelphia-based landscape architect and design studio, to develop a master plan for Penn Treaty Park that would make it a premier destination while preserving its historical and ecological integrity.
The plan included a new playground, but nothing compared to what the community and the organizations have collaborated to create.
Reached via email, Friends of Penn Treaty Park President AJ Thomson said the decision to depart from the master plan was made because the original playground design “had nothing a child would want to play on.” The new design, he said, encompasses a more common-sense approach to childhood recreation by utilizing fun equipment in a great setting.
Deborah Cahill, the landscape architect and project manager for the Department of Public Property, said the current playground equipment is worn out. In addition to needing new equipment, its location at the lowest point in the park, according to Cahill, is not ideal because the soil is constantly wet and not conducive to playing.
After reviewing the current conditions, Cahill presented two similar plans for the new playground.
The new location, in both plans, is situated in an area that is more beneficial.
“It is visually an enclosed area; you have a concrete walkway that is in very good shape; you have existing benches that are in very good shape; you have ADA accessibility; you have the parking lot; and people can come right in,” Cahill said.
The new elevated location also fixes the water retention issue.
Aside from location, both plans propose new play structures for both tot and junior sections, a swing set, stepping stones and a turtle structure.
“The playground equipment is landscaped structures,” Cahill said. “We settled on a woodland setting. We have mushroom stepping stones and we have tree stumps that are play equipment.”
The turtle structure, historically significant in its connection to the Lenape Indians, according to Cahill, will serve as a welcoming agent, much like the bronze goat in Rittenhouse Square.
Both plans would require removing a handful of trees, a condition that troubled a couple of residents. Cahill assured them that the trees being removed are diseased and that additional trees could be planted.
The first plan proposed moving the obelisk, the monument commemorating the peace treaty signed between William Penn and the Lenape Indian tribe in 1682, to its original location in the northwest section of the park. This plan also called for more grass in the enclosed play area.
Plan two, which residents overwhelming supported, keeps the obelisk in its current location, but places it on a setting highlighting the monument, and as Cahill hopes, makes it an educational, historical and welcoming part of the playground and the park.
The second plan also calls for the installation of safety surface, recycled plastic material resembling mulch, to carpet the approximately 100 square feet of playground.
Four backless, black benches would also be added to the walkway leading to the playground.
At the conclusion of the meeting, residents expressed their support of the second plan.
The playground is being funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Department of Parks and Recreation, Penn Treaty Special Services District and the Friends of Penn Treaty Park.
Funding for the project is totaled at approximately $300,000.
When asked for a timeline, Cahill and Craighead did not provide a specific date, but explained that the bid process alone takes six months and construction can be expected to begin within a year of the bid process being completed.
Thomson is confident that the process will start sooner, hoping for “at least a shovel in the ground by the end of this year.”
ldquo;The playground there now is inadequate for the waterfront treasure we have there,” Thomson said. “I really think this is going to be a destination and is going to lead to further funding to improve the park.” ••