For more than 60 years, the Stokley playground has been a neighborhood hub at the corner of East Thompson and Indiana streets in Port Richmond. This fall, the playground is set to undergo a $640,000 renovation project funded by the city of Philadelphia. This plan of restoration has taken Betsy Berkery, president of The Stokley Playground Advisory Board, and fellow neighbors three years to cultivate.
“I was like a nagging wife,” said Berkery. “I called and called and called. I had people from the neighborhood call and I finally got in touch with the councilman for this area who is Mark Squilla and he was able to move money around.”
The renovations will include a smaller recreation center complete with bathrooms, one regulation-sized basketball court, new fences and one main entrance into the playground. The entire lot will be repaved and a brand new sprinkler system will be installed. There will be new swings and updated playground equipment for the children. Cameras will also be mounted in order to monitor those coming into and out of the facility.
“They will help to ensure that none of the new equipment will be damaged and provide a sense of security for the younger children,” said Berkery.
Berkery stated that almost every playground across the city has teenagers that get involved with drugs at playgrounds. She is hoping that the cameras will help to deter this kind of behavior from Stokley.
Neighbor Kathy Quinn has lived across the street from the playground for 43 years. She hopes that the teenagers in the community respect all of the time and effort that Berkery and her advisory board has put into motion to making the area a better place.
“I’ve seen lots of damage done, being right across the street, on the weekends,” said Quinn. “The teenagers come in here, they drink, they do drugs, they wreck a lot of the equipment and it’s a shame for the little ones.”
Not only was it important for Berkery to preserve the playground for the safety of the community, but it was also important for her to preserve the memories she and many others have made at the playground in the past.
“It holds a special place in my heart,” said Berkery. “This is where I grew up. It might even be where I had my first kiss as a teenager. I will always love it.”
– Text and images by Angelise Stuhl