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Not your average walk in the park

Saint Hubert’s senior student Jessica Breaning, 17, looks back as she climbs the new playground equiptment at Russo Park. (Maria Pouchnikova)

Michael DiBerardinis views Russo Park as a gateway to the Northeast.

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DiBerardinis, commissioner of the city Department of Parks and Recreation, notes the high number of vehicles who drive west on Cottman Avenue after exiting I-95.

That’s why he likes the way the playground looks today after more than $576,000 in renovations. Located at Torresdale and Cottman avenues, the playground is widely used by the community and St. Hubert High School sports teams.

“This is beautiful,” he said recently at the official grand re-opening of the playground.

The work took place from October 2011 until May of this year. It originally was funded while Councilwoman Joan Krajewski was representing the 6th Councilmanic District. Today, Krajewski is retired. She did not attend the Nov. 20 event.

Councilman Bobby Henon, Krajewski’s successor, said he’s been happy to see the play area packed with kids since the re-opening in late spring.

“It looks fantastic,” he said of the overhaul.

The work was overseen by Deborah Cahill, architectural projects coordinator for the city Department of Public Property, and Kevin Selger, senior landscape architect/project manager for Gilmore & Associates Inc., a Langhorne-based engineering and consulting firm.

Previously, there were separate play areas for tots and older children. Today, those areas have been consolidated.

“The purpose was to have one space for families to come to,” Cahill said.

The swings and play equipment are complemented by benches, trash cans, fencing, paving and safety matting.

“Safety is our №1 concern in any project,” Cahill said.

The area also includes a “sprayground” for use in warm weather. There are three ground jets, and water also squirts out on the sides of a giant orange crayon.

The basketball courts that used to be in the current playground area have been moved to an area somewhat in the middle of the park that had been the site of an underused foot hockey rink.

The recreation center building, which formerly had a blue exterior, is now beige after a fresh coat of paint.

The former tot lot area and other parts of fields were regraded and reseeded. There’s new lighting and landscaping, along with a surveillance camera system. Almost 200 feet of concrete was replaced along Torresdale Avenue, and 30 trees were planted.

The guest list at the reopening included state Sen. Mike Stack, St. Hubert president Frank Farrell and advisory board chairwoman Kathryn Ott Lovell and civic leaders from Holmesburg and Tacony.

Once officials used giant scissors to cut the ceremonial ribbon, the St. Hubert students and the Bambi mascot climbed on the equipment for some end-of-day fun.

St. Hubert uses the fields for varsity soccer and softball practices and field hockey, lacrosse and flag football games and tennis matches.

The tennis courts, which were not part of the renovations, could use some tender loving care. Actually, a lot of TLC.

The project had to be completed within a budget. The total price tag was $576,120.18, and the city is happy with the way the playground looks.

“We tried to make it look as big as possible,” Cahill said. ••

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215–354–3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com

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