Meeting updates community on timeline for Fishtown playground renovations

“Its very sad and depressing and dilapidated,” said Fishtown Recreation Advisory Council president Mary Anne Tempone said of the playground’s current state.

Rendering of potential renovated Fishtown playground

Last Thursday night, representatives from the Fishtown Recreation Advisory Council, the city’s department of parks and recreation, and The Trust for Public Land were on hand for a meeting that provided an update on the recent developments with the Fishtown Recreation Center. The meeting took place inside the Fishtown Recreation Center.

“Its very sad and depressing and dilapidated,” Fishtown Recreation Advisory Council president Mary Anne Tempone said of the playground’s current state. “I know that I personally, and everyone else in this room, is frustrated with the ongoing policy that when something happens, someone gets hurt, there’s an incident and something’s broken and then the equipment goes away and then we’re just left with the remnants.”

A couple of weeks ago, a child was playing on the playground’s monkey bars after it had rained. He slipped and then fell on the ground, injuring himself, according to Tempone. Unfortunately, the safety padding on the ground below the monkey bars had worn out and was a factor in the child’s injury (fortunately, Tempone said the child is “fine”). As a result, the monkey bars were taken down. After that, swings were taken down for the same reason as a precautionary measure, according to Tempone.

The parks and recreation department’s Parks and Capital Projects Manager, Nancy O’Donnell, said parks are required by code to have a certain amount of safety surface underneath any of play equipment in an effort to prevent children from getting hurt.

“It’s a big liability for us,” she said. “With the money we have, we want to spend that on improvements. We don’t want to spend it on lawsuits.”

According to a slideshow presented by Danielle Denk, program manager at The Trust for Public Land, the next stage of the park is to go through design development and to obtain construction documents, which, if everything stays on schedule, will take until the end of the year. At the beginning of 2019, the plans will be put up for a bid to construction companies and construction will start soon after. Denk’s slideshow said the park’s renovations could be ready by next summer.

Denk said plans originally called for managed stormwater underneath the playground’s surface. However, a study conducted on the land showed there were things buried underneath the land from the site’s previous iterations as a fleet vehicle site for the city and a factory before it became a park at some point in the 1970s. The study essentially said stormwater management wasn’t possible on the land the playground sits on because of what is buried underneath. As a result, any potential funding the playground could have potentially gotten from the Philadelphia Water Department is no longer possible. As of right now, the project is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources and money allocated from Council President Darrell Clarke.

“There’s a couple more steps [to getting the playground finished] and those steps take time,” Denk said. “But we’re going to have a great project in the end and we’re going to have a project that’s safe.”

At the meeting, O’Donnell also gave a brief update about Fishtown’s public swimming pool, which has been closed since last summer for causing flooding in the library next door. Unfortunately, the update was that there is no update. O’Donnell said her department estimates the pool will cost $2 million to fix, but as of right now the department doesn’t have the money, and “its not clear when” the department will get the money. She said construction documents for the project are ready, however.

“Unfortunately, I can’t give you a timeline exactly for Swimmo,” she explained. “But when we get funding for it, we are ready to go with construction documents.”