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After two decades of what community members called disinvestment, Eastwick Regional Park finally reopened with a brand new playground, part of a $337k renovation project.
The Department of Parks and Recreation and District 2 Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson hosted a ribbon cutting last week at the park on South 80th Street, which is thought of as an “outdoor home” by some Southwest Philly neighbors.
It now offers two redone tennis courts, slides and a jungle gym for youngsters, and two new areas: a pickleball court and a shaded picnic area.
Many Eastwickians called these renovations long overdue. The space went nearly 18 years without any major repairs, they said — until 2018, when the Eastwick Recreation Center’s advisory committee sent city officials a “wishlist” of specific renovations.
For them, the park and the rec center needed to continue to be a safe space that allowed residents to be in community with one another.
The last time a detailed renovation occurred was 2000, said advisory committee member Deborah Landers Young, despite needing constant repairs due to flooding. The area rests on some of the lowest land in the city.
“We’ve been through three floods since I was here,” Landers told Billy Penn, citing three major events in 1999, 2004, and 2020, when Ida caused the nearby creeks and Schuylkill River to breach its banks.
Many residents live in fear of the next natural disaster that could potentially sink their home. Locals had begun to wonder if city officials were going to keep waiting until things got worse before taking action.
“We kept asking for things to be fixed [at the rec center] and we were told there was no money to do that …Then the flood came in 2020,” Young said. Pa. Sen. Anthony Williams appropriated state funds for the necessary inside renovations to be done two years later, she said, in March 2022. Per Young, workers came inside to lay down new tiles, but stopped working on the project after that.
Eastwick Rec Center karate teacher Pastor Eugene McDuffle agreed.
“The floors were a mess from the last flood. They are better now, but before I didn’t want my kids to take off their shoes for karate practice. That’s how bad it was,” McDuffle said. “There should be a timeline or something to show this is the next phase — or at least is in a phase.
At the ribbon cutting, Councilmember Johnson addressed these concerns “We’re allocating funding now to work on interior design, to work on those floor tiles, bathrooms, and so on,” he said. He also spoke about the need for positive spaces dedicated to serving Philly kids and teens.
“Impact is going to come from investing in our young people and getting them involved in things that are positive, opposed to things that are negative,” Johnson told the crowd at the ribbon cutting.
The District 2 councilmember will be back in court next week for a retrial on federal bribery charges, after the previous attempt ended in a mistrial after a deadlocked jury.
Young, the advisory committee member, said that these renovations are a good start, but Parks and Rec needs to “keep it going” when it comes to repairs.
“There are new families moving in here now,” Young said. “And I need a decent place for your kids to come and play and be safe.”