Ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrates new playground at riverfront park in Fishtown
By Melissa Komar
Penn Treaty Park was packed with children scaling mushroom steps and clamoring atop a concrete turtle last Wednesday.
This was not any ordinary day at the popular Fishtown outdoor space.
After eight months of construction, a new playground debuted at the park.
Friends of Penn Treaty Park, city officials, students from St. Laurentius School and Alexander Adaire School, and Fishtown residents gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the playground.
Kathy Ott Lovell, commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, kicked off the celebration reminiscing about spending time at the old playground when she lived in the neighborhood.
“I lived in Fishtown for about 10 years, and one of the things I was really sad about when I lived here, was there weren’t so many great playgrounds for my daughter,” she said. “And now, just a few years later, we have this amazing playground… It’s going to be a great space for children to play, but also to remember and honor the history of the Native Americans and their connection to Penn Treaty Park.”
Fishtown resident and managing director for the city Michael DiBerardinis thanked the Friends of Penn Treaty Park for maintaining the park and championing the case for improvements.
“I want to congratulate A.J. [Thomson] and Barbara [Morehead] and all the folks who are friends of the park, not only for pushing for this project, but for your care and consistent appreciation of this resource and to stand up to work to improve it and open it up to all the residents of Fishtown and all the surrounding neighborhoods.”
Councilman Mark Squilla gave remarks about the impact of Mayor Jim Kenney’s sweetened beverage tax on projects such as Penn Treaty Playground.
“It’s so important that we all work together so we can enjoy great open spaces like we are today,” he said. “And there was a great announcement today. The courts have ruled in favor of the beverage tax. So, that gives us a great opportunity to move forward. It really makes a major impact on our surrounding communities… to have great open space.”
Squilla pointed out there is a request for lighting at Penn Treaty Park and was hopeful the request could be fulfilled by the mayor’s ReBuild initiative.
The majority of funding for the $576,700 project was provided by Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. Additional funding was provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and PECO’s Green Region program.
A.J. Thomson, president of Friends of Penn Treaty Park, spoke about the history of the park.
“This is a park that is truly used by a diverse group of people. This is where everybody comes,” he said. “That’s the message that Penn Treaty Park has always had: This is Shackamaxon. This is the place where chiefs meet. This is the place where people come to have fun, a family cook-out and stretching back 335 years, people came together here and really started the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
Local students paid tribute to that history.
St. Laurentius student Julia Thomson recited “Turtle Prayer,” a traditional prayer said by Native Americans.
Alexander Adaire student Owen Nally read “William Penn’s Prayer for Philadelphia.”
All individuals at the park were invited to help cut the ribbon to conclude the ceremony.
Fishtown resident Mary Anne Edwards frequented the playground with her granddaughter, Mina Edwards, 2 ½, prior to it being temporarily closed for construction.
“I took her here at least once or twice a week among other playgrounds and it will definitely be our primary playground now,” she said. “It’s so exciting and it looks really nice and safe and it accommodates a lot of ages and it’s right by the river. It’s shaded to prevent sunburn and it’s just a great park. It’s one of the best in the city.”
Mina seemed to appreciate the new playground, too, as she jumped and skipped across the plastic bridge giggling.
Children received free backpacks to commemorate the occasion thanks to funding from Friends of Penn Treaty Park, the Penn Treaty Special Services District and
The cherry on top of the day?
Free Mister Softee ice cream was available for all children.