Walnut Hill Community Playground. (Photos by Selah Lynch / West Philly Local)
At the corner of Sansom and 47th sits Walnut Hill Community Playground, a park with a long and varied history. It was built in the 1970s and used for decades, but in early 2009 an inspector declared it unsafe and recommended it be closed. In response, residents organized a complete rebuild. This culminated on August 6th 2009 when 373 volunteers came together for one day to finish the park. Today the park is home to playground equipment, including a spiral slide, monkey bars and swings. It is surrounded by benches and picnic tables and shaded by mature Japanese Pagoda trees. One patron, Jacki, whose three kids were playing in the park said, “I’m so grateful for this place. I live in the projects but I like to take my kids down here where it is safe.”
While many residents are thrilled about the park, some residents have been confused about the hours. According to the Walnut Hill Community Association (WHCA), which maintains the playground, they adhere to the following hours: M-F 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat-Sun 9 a.m.-8 p.m. But local mom, Maggie Gummere said, “I’ve walked by a few times on a Saturday or a Sunday and the park has been closed.” This disappoints her because, as she adds, “It looks like so much fun.” Another mother blogs, the hours are “marked ‘9 a.m.-8 p.m. seven days,’ but it’s been closed several Sunday mornings.”
The WHCA says that they lock the playground outside of daylight hours to maintain a safe and healthy atmosphere. Currently, responsibility for the park falls on the shoulders of very few. Walnut Hill residents Lydia Connolly and Teresa Leedie lock, unlock and monitor the park. Resident Horace Patterson, WHCA President, takes responsibility for cleaning and emptying the trash.
Lorna Peterson, a Walnut Hill resident for 24 years and WHCA vice president, says that one thing parents can do for the park is simply to use it and help maintain a positive adult presence. She also adds, “anyone who is interested in using, maintaining or chaperoning the park, we encourage them to join the community association.” The next meeting is at 6 p.m. on September 25th at the Enterprise Center at 4548 Market Street. Alternatively, people can contact the association at 215-472-1381 or walnuthillevents [at] gmail.com.
– Selah Lynch