Kids of all ages jumped, climbed, ran, laughed, and swung through the crisp fall air on Saturday as Philly’s newest outdoor play area opened to the public.
A little over a year after a groundbreaking ceremony, Anna C. Verna Playground is now welcoming all comers at FDR Park. Named for Philly’s first and only woman City Council president, the playground is part of the $250 million overhaul of the green space at the tip of South Philadelphia.
Its most impressive feature is probably the “mega” swing set that circles the playground, with 20 spots that range from tire swings to bucket seats to disc-shaped nest seats and more.
There are also two big tree houses that look like giant bird cages — constructed around real tree trunks, they each culminate in a curving covered metal slide. Additional slides are found around the playground’s rolling hills. There’s a big boulder scramble with netting, a log obstacle course, a pavilion, and nine different picnic sites.
The surface of the playground is cork-based, and touted as nearly 100% water permeable. That’s important because the whole area was once a floodplain, transformed in the early 1900s by the Olmsted Brother landscape architects — whose father had created NYC’s Central Park — into what they called League Island Park.
It was a key site for the 1926 sesquicentennial celebrations in Philadelphia, and the new plan aims to reimagine the space in time for the 2026 semiquincentennial.
Balancing environmental concerns with public access is a big goal of the 348-acre revamp, which is being led by the Fairmount Park Conservancy in collaboration with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and Friends of FDR Park.
Along with a forthcoming Welcome Center, Verna Playground is part of the “Urban Edge” being constructed around an “Ecological Core” of wetlands, currently under renovation in partnership with PHL Airport.
Scroll to check out more photos of the playground in action.