Recreation center seeking community input

Reorganizational meeting for Shissler Advisory Council highlights residents’ concerns, sparks new ideas

Community support: Shissler supervisor Bill Malizia stands in the gym at the recreation center in Fishtown.

By Melissa Komar

From the Fishtown Neighbors Association to the Facebook group Fishtown Mamas, several sects of the neighborhood were represented at last week’s reorganizational meeting for the Shissler Advisory Council.
Shissler Recreation Center supervisor Bill Malizia organized the meeting, which took place on Thursday, June 8.
“Shissler had an advisory council on paper, but it wasn’t active,” he said. “This is a chance for the community to come out and ask questions.”
Malizia was placed at the Fishtown rec center in September and hopes to gain more feedback from the community by rebooting the group, in addition to complying with the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s order for each rec center to have an advisory council.
Also present at the meeting was Tom Dignam, program manager for District 2 in Philly Parks and Rec.
“We’d like the advisory council to give input to our staff to see what the community wants,” he said. “Funds are also raised by the advisory council and to engage the other friends groups and organizations in the area.”
One new piece of equipment the rec purchased with funds in the previous advisory council account and in partnership with Fishtown A.C. to better maintain the grounds was a tractor, which was scheduled to be delivered last Friday.
Topics broached by about a dozen residents ranged from the Big Green Block, to Palmer Doggie Depot, to lead levels from nearby construction, to access and permit issues at Hetzel’s Field.
According to Dignam, Hetzel’s Field is “under the auspices of the staff at Shissler.”
Dignam and Malizia said a separate meeting would be set up with the board maintaining the field to increase public access to the space.
Jennifer Nelson, president of the nonprofit Palmer Doggie Depot, spoke about how community organizations worked together through the Big Green Block initiative to make changes and how that approach can be beneficial forthe advisory council.
Palmer Doggie Depot is preparing to apply for another grant, and one of the proposed additions is a pavilion that will overlap the dog park and the space next to it, benefitting individuals not necessarily making a visit with their four-legged friend.
“Our fence would break it up and part of it would go on the other side,” she said, “so people could use the pavilion for anything like a fundraising event for the tot lot or a farmer’s market on the weekends. We’re constantly trying to find other ways for people to come and use the area.”
After a lengthy discussion about the Big Green Block, Malizia outlined basic needs at the rec center he hopes the advisory council can help address, including adding more cameras to the facility, updating the playground and expanding the tot rec program.
In addition to participating in the advisory council, Malizia encouraged residents to write to their councilperson to express how they would like to see funds utilized from Mayor Jim Kenney’s Rebuild initiative.
“The purpose of the advisory council is to recruit volunteers, raise some funds and make aware the politicians and other neighborhood groups aware of what’s going on here and what we need so it can be better for the entire community,” Malizia said. “Every person has their own agendas, but we want to address it as a unit.”
Malizia tentatively plans to schedule the next Shissler Advisory Council meeting for July.
For updates on the Shissler Advisory Council, visit Shissler Recreation Center on Facebook, call 215–685–9888 or visit the rec at 1800 Blair St.