A walk in the park

Wissinoming Park received a major upgrade with a new playground, mural and more.

A park paradise: Last Friday, officials celebrated a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Wissinoming Park, at 5801 Frankford Ave. The park received renovations that included a new playground, a new sprayground, a renovated picnic grove, security cameras, rain gardens and an art mural titled, “Cultivate Respect.” JOHN COLE / TIMES PHOTOS

Last Friday, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, Fairmount Park Conservancy Executive Director Jamie Gauthier, City Council members Bobby Henon and Maria Quinones-Sanchez, state Sen. Christine Tartaglione and other organizations joined members of the community for a ceremonial ribbon cutting and celebration of the renovations to Wissinoming Park.

Wissinoming Park, situated on a couple of acres at 5801 Frankford Ave., received $1.5 million for the renovations at the park that included a new playground, a new sprayground, improved path circulation, new site furnishings, landscape plantings, a renovated picnic grove, security cameras, two rain gardens and a completed art mural titled, “Cultivate Respect.”

“Wissinoming Park has always been a treasure, but it is today more beautiful than it has ever been,” said Lovell, who grew up not too far from the park. “It’s so wonderful to see a project of this scale take place in a neighborhood like Wissinoming.”

The effort to rehab the large park started a few years ago when members of the community held discussions about what to do to make the park a destination for the community once again.

Joanne Heim, of Wissinoming Friends, said that the brainstorming began in June 2013 and that the new park has everything that they could have wanted. She recalled a time in which young girls approached her about getting swings for the park because, at the time, they were either not present or damaged. The new park offers multiple swings for members of the community to enjoy.

Although the playground will certainly be an attraction for the community, it is a very scenic park that is filled with a plethora of different species of trees.

“What especially made me so happy was the 40 new trees,” said Heim. “The trees make this park a treasure.”

A couple of years ago, district boundaries changed for Henon and Quinones-Sanchez, so this became a combined effort between the two of them.

“We’re going to split this up down the middle,” said Quinones-Sanchez.

She continued to state how they are fastly catching up to renovating a number of parks in the area that will benefit the community.

“I grew up here and I remember being at that bridge and it didn’t look the same a few years ago,” said Henon, who grew up on Charles Street. “Now, we created an atmosphere with all of the partners that are involved and most important, you the community, is going to be the eyes and ears of the neighborhood that really keeps us informed, so we can have a safe place. We are rebuilding our parks, recreations (centers), libraries one at a time and Wissinoming is leading the charge.”

Part of the makeover for Wissinoming Park included the “Cultivate Respect” mural located on the recreation center building and done by Mural Arts Philadelphia and Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia. This mural was inspired as a response to the vandalism that took place on Jewish headstones at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in 2017, located right across the street from the park.

“I’ll tell you, I never thought they could make that building look good, because it looked terrible,” said Heim. “(Now) It looks amazing.”

“We’re lucky, we have a gem right here in Northeast Philadelphia,” said Tartaglione. “And a lot of people don’t know about it.”

The groups that partnered for this project were Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Philadelphia Water, Henon, Sanchez, Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. ••