Connor Barwin of the Philadelphia Eagels speaks at the 2nd annual MTWB Foundation concert.
Connor Barwin of the Philadelphia Eagles speaks at the 2nd annual MTWB Foundation concert.

Philadelphia Water selected West Passyunk’s Smith Playground for Green City, Clean Waters improvements way back in 2012. While we were busy doing community outreach and design for the popular 7.5-acre recreation area, located at 25th Street and Snyder Avenue, we also happened to develop a great relationship with Connor Barwin of the Philadelphia Eagles and his Make the World Better Foundation (MTWB).

That led to our working together to rebuild the Ralph Brooks Park in nearby Point Breeze, which is currently under construction. When finished, the park will have new basketball courts, new play equipment, sidewalk improvements, tree plantings and a rain garden to manage stormwater runoff from the site.

It’s been such a hit, MTWB decided to bring the synergy that made Ralph Brooks Park a success to Smith, where we were already laying the ground for green stormwater improvements. Barwin held his second MTWB fundraising concert at Union Transfer in June, and generous giving resulted in $300,000 for Smith improvements. Tickets for the sold-out show made up over $150,000 of that, and Barwin matched the sales for the rest.

From MTWB:

Revitalization of South Philadelphia’s Smith Playground will provide major improvements to the 7.5-acre park including the Recreation Center building and adjacent play spaces, new football and baseball fields and the installation of Green Stormwater Infrastructure by the Philadelphia Water Department. Key partners on the project include Urban Roots, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and Philly Rising.

So, what will our work bring to the Smith renovations? We’re contributing an estimated $500,000 to install four green stormwater tools at the site.
They include:

• A  basin beneath the soccer field at the southwest side of the park

• A basin beneath the sidewalk on the west side of the park

• A rain garden between the sidewalk and the basketball courts

• A rain garden on a paved area at the corner of 25th and Snyder

Besides enhancing the beauty of the site, these improvements will capture the equivalent of 2 SEPTA buses of water almost every time it rains—water that would otherwise be rushing into local sewers and waterways. The stormwater tools will mostly handle runoff coming from 25th Street, with a total of 1.66 acres of hard, impervious surface draining into the basins and rain gardens, where it will slowly filter into the earth and water table. That means less local flooding during rain events and healthier local waterways.

“I want to thank Union Transfer, the musicians and sponsors for another year of unwavering support,” Barwin said after the concert. “Not only did we aim to put on an entertaining show for fans, but all proceeds will go towards transforming South Philly’s Smith Playground into a safe and enjoyable place for the community. I am humbled to live in a city that is filled with so many people who want to make their neighborhood, and the world, a better place to live, to grow and to learn.”

We’re proud to be working with Barwin, MTWB, Urban Roots, Parks and Recreation and all the other partners, and we’re blown away at the generosity of everyone who contributed to make this public space better for all the West Passyunk residents who use the space and live near Smith.

Our green infrastructure construction at Smith is set to begin during summer 2016 and will take 4-6 months to complete, so stay tuned for more updates!