Del Romero of Parkwood went outside to a nearby green space to play wiffle ball with his son. What should have been a picturesque moment of father-son bonding and ball-throwing was soiled by the waste and broken glass that littered the ground.
“People were using it as a trash can,” Romero said. “I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to see it like this.’ ”
He went home and told his wife, Lisa, that he was going to do something about it. Romero got to work drawing the plans out on paper, and the couple started what has now become a beloved community space.
Joe Waclawski of Parkwood Manor says that he walks his dog in the area.
“I know that takes a lot of time and energy and it came out great,” Waclawski said. “It’s a nice touch on the environment and the community. It brings a nice touch to Parkwood.”
With Romero’s craftsmanship skills, the couple added a handcrafted sitting bench, a walkway, lighting and a free little library.
“We have already seen a positive change. We’ve seen parents and grandparents and children and adults taking books and bringing books and keeping the area nice,” Lisa said.
The project took the Romeros about 2 months. They started gathering materials in the late summer of 2021 and finished the project in early October.
“We started the project with the hands-on labor and getting all the recycled blocks, we did as much as we can as cheap as possible because it came out of pocket,” Lisa said.
They were able to get dirt from Keep Philadelphia Beautiful and found someone giving blocks away for cheap.
“To get all the material and stay under budget was difficult to me,” Romero said, “But I did it. With a little help, I figured it out. Once I got the blocks I really got inspired, I knew that I could actually pull this off and get it done,” he said.
According to Lisa, she and her husband felt a lot of community support directed at the project. One neighbor who couldn’t physically help donated money for supplies, others told her that they would keep an eye on the space to keep it from being vandalized or littered in. Another neighbor posted photos of the space online and expressed his gratitude to the creators, she said.
However, the Romeros said they would like to see the city take more initiative when it comes to spaces like this.
“If I can make a little impact on my little community here, imagine what the city can do, with more resources, more manpower and more recycled materials that normally just go to waste,” Romero said.
According to Lisa, the neighbors pay someone to mow the property, or her husband does it.
Most of all, the Romeros want to spread awareness within the community of the project, and they hope to see more foot traffic.
“It’s such a nice addition to our fantastic neighborhood and I want people to be aware that it’s there and they’re welcome to come,” Lisa said.