Porous pavement at the Lea School's playground. Photo credit: WPCNS.
Porous pavement at the Lea School's playground. Photo credit: WPCNS.

Our work to transform Philadelphia schoolyards into living laboratories composed of rain gardens, porous paving, trees and more is getting a big boost in the form of a $20,000 grant from the TD Green Streets program. The generous funding was awarded for Philadelphia Water’s ongoing Green City, Clean Waters green infrastructure improvements at Henry C. Lea Elementary School at 47th and Locust streets in the city’s Walnut Hill section.

The greening effort will involve planting a large shade tree area and street trees this summer–the finishing touches on the first phase of extensive green infrastructure improvements at Lea. This urban forest will be built over a new green stormwater management system.

A partnership between the Arbor Day Foundation and TD Bank, the Green Streets program “supports innovative practices in community forestry” by investing in “local forestry projects in low- to moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods,” according to the Arbor Day Foundation website. The Lea grant was one of 10 awarded to communities across the country, and we are extremely excited to be a part of the TD Green Streets program.

For this project, Green City, Clean Waters is partnering with the West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools (WPCNS) on their “Greening Lea” project, which is transforming the 41,000-square-foot schoolyard into a vibrant and active school and community space. We have been working with WPCNS since 2012 when they participated in the Community Design Collaborative’s “Soak It Up!” design project,(Sorry, this content is no longer available) which sought to come up with green solutions for stormwater problem areas. We became more involved with their process when they were awarded a Philadelphia Water Stormwater Management Incentives Program (SMIP) grant in June of 2013. We have participated in their design process throughout.

In 2014, we enabled WPCNS to complete an early phase of the project when they partnered with the School District of Philadelphia to move a play structure from a recently closed school. They were able to remove the asphalt and install a water-porous rubber play surface under both the new and old play structures. The brightly designed surface created a single, cohesive space and reduced the impervious surface by 4,400 square feet.

This summer will see the completion of work that establishes the schoolyard as the primary entrance to the school with a new gate and signage. A series of outdoor play areas, including a shade tree area, a revamped basketball court, and lush rain gardens will welcome students, parents, and teachers.

With this project, everyone is a winner. Philadelphia Water is able to expand its greened acres and the school gets much-needed shade and landscaping in their schoolyard and surrounding neighborhood. Most importantly, the children can touch and see nature in a way that that brings their lessons to life.