Parks & Recreation Commission focuses on safety and security

Last night, in its continued efforts to reach out to different communities, the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commission came to Cobbs Creek Recreation Center, where it played to a crowd that included Councilperson Jannie Blackwell.

Chair Nancy Goldenberg began by announcing that the group would be focusing on safety and security for the meeting. She also led the audience in a moment of silence for Commission member Sarah Clark Stuart, whose husband, Rob Stuart, died suddenly a few weeks ago.

Next, Commissioner Carol Rice presented the PaRC Stars award to Shari Horowitz, for her leadership in steering a renovation of Seger Park Playground n Washington Square West.

Goldenberg then provided a few more park notes, annnouncing that the Philadelphia Police Foundation had selected the McCarthy Stables in West Fairmount Park as the site of its new equestrian stables.

She also acknowledged the recent Love Your Park cleanup, with Vernon Park in Germantown serving as a signature site. Finally, Goldenberg encouraged all park lovers to take advantage of upcoming scheduled tours that will be given of the Fairmount Park historic homes, which will be decorated for the holidays.

Parks & Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis followed by updating the crowd on news of Cobbs Creek park. “We know that we have to work with you, as well as with our sister departments — the police department, the office of the homeless, and others — to create the kinds of conditions that will allow the folks in this community to better realize and enjoy this beautiful asset.”

The work has gone very well, so far, he says, including improving the physical conditions of the 6-mile stretch of parkland, that spreads into Delaware County.

DiBerardinis also announced the upcoming opening of the Ed Snider Skate House, which has been enclosed and will be able to stay open for ten months a year (beyond the usual season of six months).

Goldenberg next asked for a series of brief committee reports. Land Use committee chair Debra Wolf Goldstein mentioned that the Zoning Code Commission had been “listening very closely” to their insights, but offered no specifics. 

Pete Hoskins, chair of the Revenue Enhancement committee, spoke of two major concession bids that are currently in progress. The first concerns one at Burholm Park golf course, the second is for two bike rental concessions, one in Center City and one at Kelly Drive. Decisions will be made later in the winter, with the hope that the concessions can be up and running in time for the Spring.

Commissioner Rice next addressed public relations efforts, including continued work on a new web site for the Commission, as well as a presence on Facebook.

Goldenberg then turned to the crowd for questions specifically around safety and security issues. She also mentioned that some followup has already taken place coming out of the Commission’s last meeting in Tacony, where attendees expressed concerns about all-terrain vehicles in the park. “Police officers there have done a great job of confiscating ATVs. . . . So, we’re on it. We want to stay on the issues until they’re resolved.”

The first audience member brought up the question of dangerous conditions on the park’s roadways — including the speeding trucks that move through. “I’m scared for my life every day I go pass there,” she said. On another note, she mentioned that McCreesh Rec Center has a leaky roof and a “horrendous” kitchen. Goldenberg noted that the department may have to coordinate efforts with the PennDOT, as far as the roads are concerned.

During the continued stream of commenters, one man praised police officers from the 14th District, encouraging those present to keep communiticating with their local police, and another asked about efforts to improve the area’s trails. In response to the latter, Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug took the microphone and said the agency has been looking at this watershed for quite some time. “We’ll be working very closely with parks and rec . . . to figure out how we can make this the premier watershed in Philadelphia,” he said. The audience member then asked that lighting considerations be taken into account, as well.

Another speaker applauded the notion that Cobbs Creek Park is now considered hospitable for picnicking, but she asked that excessive noise levels be combatted, especially on Friday and Saturday evenings. Inspector Wilson said he’d keep an eye (or an ear) out in the future.

The president of the Christy Rec Center Advisory Council next chimed in that her rec center also suffered from leaks. “We need help, big help,” she said. “We need lighting and cameras, not trees.” In response, DiBerardinis said that he’d get a crew out there and if the “roof can be repaired, we will repair it.” He promised that he’d let them know what the crew finds by the end of the month, and that the same would occur at McCreesh — but then reminded them that if the process has to go further, “it might take longer than anyone likes.” He also spoke of the park’s efforts to work with police to “beat [noise issues] before they get started,” and promised to work harder at it.

The last audience member to address the Commission garnered the most discussion, when he requested police presence at often rambuctious basketball games at Shepard Rec Center. Twelfth District Inspector Dennis Wilson, on hand at the invitation of the Commission, and Recreation Commissoner Susan Slawson, reminded him to alert the police beforehand. Shepard’s manager then stood up and said that he had notified the police and that in fact they had agreed to send a police detail to the next game. Commissioner Jeffrey Hackett offered that a “zero tolerance” stand toward violence had worked in his experience, and he also reiterated that the rec center keep the local police informed about game schedules.

To conclude the meeting Goldenberg next invited Jean Hunt, City-wide Youth Development Coordinator, to plug Cobbs Creek programming, such as a bike club, birdwalks and 5k race, all of which, she said, go toward keeping the park safe.

Goldenberg then recapped that everyone had been heard, and that in particular deteriorating conditions at McCreesh and Christy would be attended to, and DiBerardinis reiterated that the department would look at road conditions on Cobbs Creek Parkway.

Contact the reporter at jgreco@planphilly.com and follow her on Twitter @joanngreco

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.