Wissahickon resident presents plans for Neighbors Park makeover

Members of the Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association listened to a proposal on Monday that will transform Neighbors Park into a safer, more accessible recreation area.

The status of Neighbors Park, located at the intersection of Terrace and Hermit Streets, has been the subject of ongoing discussion and planning since 2010, when city officials presented WNCA with $200,000 to provide the park with a long-deserved face lift.

Craig Ablin, who lives beside the park, presented the current design specifications.

Ablin explained that several key design elements were identified for the park, based upon surveys that were conducted with local residents. Benches, an improved basketball court, and play-areas for children of varying ages were among the most requested features.

Planning, said Ablin, hit a snag when considering the installation of swings, the most in-demand element for the park. The extant swing set does not meet code, which Ablin said requires 32 feet of clearance.

“We have about 10 feet or so,” he said, “if that.”

In addition to non-conforming swings, the park is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Design plans 

Presenting the design that would meet the needs and desires of residents, Ablin indicated the park will be redesigned from the ground up, beginning with replanted trees and reinstalled brickwork, the latter of which will provide for better drainage.

A spray area will take the position of the current swing set. An adult seating area will go in place of the current seating area, to include benches, tables, and chairs.

The new swings will go in place of “the pyramid” – a popular playground fixture determined by the city to be out of code. The removal of the pyramid will allow for a level playground, which will ensure ADA compliance and make the park safer for patrons.

Lastly, the chain-link fence that separates the basketball court from the playground will be removed and likely replaced by a wrought-iron fence, allowing for a more “decorative” look, in Ablin’s words. The court itself will receive make-over.

“Overall, the idea is that there will be someplace for little kids, someplace for big kids, and someplace for long-term residents or students to sit and relax,” he said, “and basically make it safe.”

‘Safety is still the number one concern’

Feedback at the meeting was largely positive, but residents were primarily concerned with safety, particularly in regard to the perception of malingering teenagers.

Ablin said that he has reached out to youths who use the park and has sought their cooperation in keeping the park clean and safe. WNCA President Drew Bantly said that ongoing diligence in keeping the park clean and graffiti-free has had tangible effects.

“We have to weigh safety and cost,” said Bantly of design efforts, “but safety is still the number one concern.”

And while costs have risen since the initial estimates made in 2010, WNCA leaders indicated that they will try to retain as many features as possible.

“We’re not positive that this will fit dead within our budget,” said Ablin, but pledged to work with Councilman Jones to make sure adequate funding is secured for all aspects of the design.

Next week, the finalized design will be presented to city engineers. Construction is expected to begin by the end of summer.

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