Less than a month after Councilwoman Marion Tasco publicly accused the Nutter Administration of delaying her project to expand Sturgis Playground in East Oak Lane, Tasco, community leaders and other government officials broke ground on the playground and recreation center renovation Friday.
At 5.7 acres, Sturgis Playground is more than just a playground. This city-block-sized recreation space offers playground equipment, a tree grove, volleyball and basketball courts and a baseball field. It also connects the Olney, East Oak Lane and Melrose Park communities.
This current renovation project will replace the existing recreation center building with a new, 5,090 square foot building, create a new playground area, rebuild the volleyball court with porous pavement at a new spot in the park, turn the baseball field into a soccer/football field with outdoor lighting and add new pavement and landscaping.
According to SMP Architects, who designed the renovation, the new facility will have an educational kitchen, a computer lab, two multipurpose rooms, energy efficient lighting, stormwater management elements, low maintenance building supplies and more. The beloved trees throughout the park will be preserved as much as possible, and those that must be sacrificed will be turned into benches to be used on site.
The success of this project to date is a significant win for the community.
“This baby here - they were going to close Sturgis,” said Jeffrey Hacket, Sturgis Advisory Council community leader.
Hacket stepped up as a community leader when his now adult children were young and their playground and recreation options were limited. Someone told him, if you don’t see a leader, it’s your turn.
“I’ve been going ever since,” Hacket said.
Hacket said the work will not end when construction does. The rec center, he said, provides a hub for community activity and an extended family for the kids who participate in programming. Fostering the Sturgis community is an ongoing effort.
“This is not really the end of anything,” Hacket said. “It’s the beginning of a whole lot of work that has to be done.”
Tasco praised both Hacket and the community around Sturgis Playground.
“This is a good strong neighborhood, and I appreciate and applaud you for just being good neighbors and good friends,” she said.
During construction at Sturgis Playground, all programs will be held at nearby Fisher Park. If all goes well, Tasco said the community might see a finished project in April of next year.
Project leaders have been working toward this park renovation since the ‘90s. They spent the last two years in the planning stages. Last month Tasco accused the Nutter Administration of delaying the project. She claimed the administration did it in retaliation because Tasco opposes selling the city’s Philadelphia Gas Works. A few weeks later, the project was back in progress.
“It’s government and it’s slow, but we’ve done better than we’ve done in the past,” Tasco said at the groundbreaking.
State Representative Dwight Evans commended Tasco’s enduring commitment to the park and the neighborhood.
“This is your money,” he said. “We are no more than stewards of your money, and Tasco has been an excellent, excellent, excellent steward of public dollars.”
Michael DiBerardinis, Parks and Recreation Department commissioner, said Sturgis Playground is a perfect example of why the formerly separate parks and recreation departments merged.
Gesturing to the tree grove, he said, “If you look around here you will see why we merged because this is not just a rec center. It’s a park too.”
“We think this will be a leading facility in the department,” he said.
Christine covers transportation and writes about everything from pedestrian concerns to bicycle infrastructure, bridges, trail networks, public transit and more. Her favorite assignments send her bushwhacking through Philadelphia’s yet-to-be-cleared bike trails, catching a glimpse of SEPTA’s inner workings or pounding the pavement to find out what pedestrians really think. Christine also covers community news for Eyes on the Street, where her coverage ranges from food sovereignty to public art and urban greening. She first joined PlanPhilly in fall 2011 as an intern through a partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods website. During the internship her reporting on the Housing Authority’s surplus property auctions earned an award from the Society of Professional Journalists.