Jenks Playground Closes the Old Year, Opens the New Year

The Children’s Park of Chestnut Hill is finishing 2021 with capital improvements, but they’re far below what they need to keep the playground operational in the long run. 

The Children’s Park of Chestnut Hill, better known as Jenks Playground, was built in 1997, in an 11-day community effort after months of planning and fundraising. The life expectancy of the current structure is 20-25 years, and now at 24 years, is showing every bit of its daily use in the hands of children. 

Playgrounds experience a lot of use, especially after a year when it was sometimes the only place children could go out of the house. A 2019 estimate by Friends of the Children’s Park in Chestnut Hill showed that the park would need between $21,275 and $22,775 for regular maintenance for the next five- to seven-years. Considering that the park only receives about $2,000 a year in contributions, the lack of funds has become a major issue. 

The playground is maintained by an all-volunteer Friends of the Children’s Park in Chestnut Hill, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, rather than the School District of Philadelphia. Volunteers come together for fundraising, and twice a year to clean the Children’s Park. 

As Dan Baselice, President of the Friends, put it, “A community builds a playground but a playground makes a community come together. In an area where kids go to different schools, parents come from different areas the Jenks Playground is where we all come to play.”

In 2021, the Friends raised $25,000, with another $10,000 in pledges and several grants pending. The Chestnut Hill Business District assisted with funding for five more tables and benches in the playground. There are year-round fundraising or community awareness events, such a Chestnut Hill Community Association held a fundraiser for the CHCA and Jenks Playground on October 10, and Christmas caroling on the school steps in the early evening Dec. 14. 

Baselice sent a list of their goals for 2022. First, focus on play equipment from outside in to refurbish or replace. They’d like new swings in the style of current playground, replace any rotting wood in the castle, and update the toddler section. They’d also like to install a GaGa pit (a sort of hexagonal dodgeball court).

Second: Landscape issues. “The schoolyard is slanted,” explained Baselice. “When it rains, it all runs toward the school building.” In the playground, this sloping also means there’s mulch runoff.  In 2021, volunteers laid 60 cubic yards of mulch with help of the Friends of Jenks (including FOJ President Janel Baselice, Dan’s wife.) Fixing the slant could substantially reduce the yearly loss of the playground surface. Ultimately, Baselice said, they’d like to get a storm-water grant to possibly extend the playground out and provide a unpaved, permeable or grassy surface. They’d also like to evaluate the trees that may be a hazard on the property. There are two dead trees of immediate concern.

More than anything, Baselice would like to see them reach $100,000 in fundraising. Their goal is $50,000 per year.

The children of the founding members of the playground have all grown up and they’re looking the next generation(s) to get involved.  

They are looking for dedicated community members with significant fundraising experience to join the capital campaign committee to help raise the necessary funds, and eventually contribute to the final redesign of the play area.  There’s a GoFundMe campaign to raise capital for these renovations.

See jenksplayground.org for more information.

By Walt Maguire, reprinted with permission of the Chestnut Hill Local

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