East Passyunk: Columbus Square Park to be renovated

The redesign and renovation of Columbus Square Park continues as does community fundraising.

Columbus Square Park today.

The new park that runs along the block of 12th and 13th and Wharton and Reed Streets will include two new dog parks with separate entrances for small and larger dogs that include antibacterial K-9 grass. A patio area along 13th Street will be put into place along with paths connecting all ends of the park. The park will include a new baseball field and soccer field area, a water feature with a timer for children in the playground area, a refurbished surface area for play areas, and an open green space along Reed Street. Most community members agree that there is a need for open green space. They want less baseball field and more park.

Ilene Wilder In the news for her contributions to the East Passyunk community.

Ilene Wilder, President of Columbus Square Park Advisory Council and the Passyunk Square Civic Association’s Sponsorship and Fundraiser Chair calls the project her passion. She is thrilled about the success that the park project has had thus far.

Prior to moving and becoming a resident of Passyunk, Wilder was an environmental lobbyist in Washington, DC. She has always seen herself as an activist and someone who stands up for a cause. She got involved with the PSCA after she moved to the area and became the VP of the park for three years. When the President of the Park Advisory Council stepped down, Ilene became President. She has held the position for the past five years. She has been a huge advocate for re-doing the entire park and expanding the dog park. Wilder was determined to get a community designed government grant. She met with members of the city Parks and Recreation Department and got the grant.

“I know how to lobby,” Wilder said. “I know how to raise money. I know how to ask for money.”

Using these skills, Wilder was able to raise the first $300,000 for the initial design.

The Community Design Collaborative awarded the Columbus Square Advisory Council a grant for its design services in March of 2013. The estimated cost of the entire project is around $2.3 million.

Raising money for the design and completing it was a yearlong process. Wilder is confident that the park can be completed sometime in 2016  if the money can be secured within the next year. She continues to fundraise and find any opportunity to get the community involved with the project.

When the renovation begins, the park will be closed for about a year. The field area will be completely replaced and filled with a new irrigation system and soil.  Smaller additions to the park will take place as well. The open green space may possibly be used as a performance space for the local theater. The rose garden near the park will continue to bloom every April.

The park today continues to fall apart. Majority of the park is closed off and you cannot walk straight through it. The benches are rotting and the entire field consists of cinder. Wilder says the park is barely used and lacks community interaction.

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 11.35.17 AM
Sign currently located alongside the dog park in East Passyunk.

“I really enjoy civic community,” says Wilder.

She believes that a strong neighborhood needs a sense of community in order to make things happen. When the designs were proposed and neighborhood meetings were held, many small businesses signed on to the project at very high levels. Community members have shown a desire to get involved and continue to show support. The amount of contributions shows the true need for a redesigned park.

“I want this park to be used by everybody,” says Wilder.

She is sure that the park is going to be a good community gathering place. Wilder says that everyone is confident that the park can be done and the money can be raised. Wilder wants the new Columbus Square Park to be the model for all Philadelphia parks. She wants to show the importance of doing thing innovatively and sustainably.

Wilder says there has been nothing but positive feedback from community members in regards to the project. She continues to raise money for the project.

“You need capacity,” she said. “You need to know that were going to be one big voice.”

For more information on the park project click here and to stay updated on meetings and the renovation process follow Columbus Square Park- South Philadelphia on Facebook.


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