Bracketed by recordings of John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” and Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” (one can only hope…), representatives from the Phillies, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, and The Trust for Public Land (TPL) gathered at West Philadelphia’s Conestoga Community Playground, the fourth of an intended ten demonstration greening projects around town that center on playgrounds and athletic fields.
The Trust and Parks and Rec are partnering with the school district (for a stewardship and education component) and the Philadelphia Water Department on the $10 million effort, which is part of the city’s Green2015 plan. Funding has been provided by federal and state storm water management monies, the Phillies, the National Recreation Foundation, Met Life Foundation, and the William Penn Foundation. Last year, the project also received a $1 million gift from Dr. Janet and John Haas.
Construction has already begun at the first three properties selected — William Dick Elementary Schoolyard, Hank Gathers Recreation Center and Collazo Park — and should be completed by the Fall, said Adrian Benape, TPL’s senior vice president of city park development. A similar effort is underway in New York City, he said, but he added that the Philly project is the “first in the nation to really look at these kinds of opportunities to capture storm water runoff.”
In his remarks, Benape called Philly the “greenest city in America.” Both he and Michael Stiles, the Phillies’ senior vice president of administration and operations, primarily addressed their comments to a host of neighborhood children who gathered for photo ops with the Phillies Phanatic. After vainly attempting to catch a series of wild pitches from Benape, the mascot led the kids in a run around the field’s bases.
The partnership’s planned renovations of the two-acre portion of the field at Conestoga will be designed through a community-driven process, overseen by TPL and will include a new play space as well as a green infrastructure elements such as rain gardens, said P&R’s Patrick Morgan. Plans call for all ten recreation spaces — the rest have yet to be selected — to be renovated within three years.