As a young family, we were lucky to have chosen Chestnut Hill to begin our lives together. It had everything we could ask for, a walkable community with a bustling main street and plenty of other young families just starting out. It also had a wonderful playground at the center of town that became our destination more times than I can count and continues to be now that our children attend Jenks Academy.
As a community member and parent of Jenks students, we felt compelled to get involved. We attended and helped organize clean-ups, including a recent re-mulching of the playground with the assistance of Friends of Jenks, and began to learn more about its history. Like most of the community, we thought the playground was maintained by the School District of Philadelphia, when in fact, it has been maintained by a shrinking number of volunteers that run the Friends of the Children’s Park 501(c)(3). We also learned that the life expectancy of the current structure is 20-25 years, and now at 23 years, is showing every bit of its daily use by children from near and far. The children of the founding members of the playground have all grown up and we need the next generation to get involved.
In 1997, after the playground’s construction, the Friends of the Children’s Park and the School District of Philadelphia signed an agreement. This agreement was to allow access for the community on school property in the hours the school was not in use in return for the community build that erected the Children’s Park at Jenks and raising funds for continued maintenance. This agreement expired in 2017, and the playground is now under the jurisdiction of the school district. With the expiration of this agreement and its aging equipment, the playground as we know it is in jeopardy. The school district could now deem the playground unfit and condemn it. It could then be razed and replaced with a more generic model as funds allow.
Moving forward, the best way to save the playground is to rebuild it, but members of the community will need to come together much as they did 23 years ago to raise funds for a new sustainable playground. Jenks Academy Home and School Association, Friends of Jenks and The Friends of the Children’s Park are joining forces with Principal Lynskey and the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia to raise $500,000 to $750,000 in timed phases for the refurbishment/rebuild based on the plans submitted by the non-profit Big Sandbox from 2016. These plans will be done to encompass the playground space and repurposing the schoolyard as a Green Space play area. We are looking for dedicated community members with significant fundraising experience to join the capital campaign committee to help raise the necessary funds. This committee ultimately will dialogue with the School District of Philadelphia to contribute to the final design of the play area.
It is time for our community to come together and re-envision the playground and school yard space for the future. It is my hope this article will inspire you to get involved and join the playground committee so that we can bring joy to the next generation in Chestnut Hill and create a destination for families to come and enjoy all that Chestnut Hill has to offer during a visit. Our first Play Area capital campaign committee meeting will be Monday, Feb. 8, at 7-8:30 p.m. via Zoom. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for the link and if you would like to become a member of the newly formed committee.
If you would like to make a contribution now to the capital campaign, please visit our GoFundMe Page: https://gofund.me/511a70e6
Or send to our PO Box:
The Friends of the Children’s Park in Chestnut Hill, PO Box 4355, Philadelphia PA 19118
I have personally spent many hours with my sons at Children’s Park at Jenks. This playground has been a place where I know my children are safe to play but has also served as a place to connect with other parents in the community. The pandemic has only amplified the importance of this community space as a necessary and safe outdoor place for our children to play. Don’t you want to be part of the movement to keep this community treasure flourishing for years to come?
Please visit our website for donations and updates: https://www.jenksplayground.org
(Written by Daniel Baselice. Reprinted from Chestnut Hill Local, November 17, 2021)