Mayor Michael Nutter speaks at the ribbon cutting for Ralph Brooks Park in August. Philadelphia Water will join Nutter for one last celebration of green infrastructure and community collaboration on Monday, December 28. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

We’re joining Parks and Recreation and closing out 2015 with a ground breaking celebration for a big, very cool project: the revamp of Smith Playground at 24th and Jackson streets in South Philadelphia.

As the second playground project chosen by Urban Roots (Sorry, this content is no longer available) and the Make the World Better foundation, Smith Playground will get a full, $2.5 million makeover in the coming months. It follows in the footsteps of the popular Ralph Brooks Park project, where a similar collaboration led to a full renovation that wrapped up this summer.

Like Ralph Brooks, Smith Playground’s updates were made possible in part by $300,000 in donations made at a fundraising concert held this summer by MTWB and the foundation’s founder, Philadelphia Eagles player Connor Barwin. And, like at Ralph Brooks, Philadelphia Water is adding to the extensive improvements at Smith by bringing Green City, Clean Waters green infrastructure to the site.

In addition to being the last celebration of the year, this will also be our last project celebrated with Mayor Nutter. He’s been a longstanding champion of green through his GreenWorks initiative as well as a big supporter of Green City, Clean Waters—a program which was taking shape even before he took office and was officially adopted in June 2011, three years into his first term.

Since then, Green City, Clean Waters has brought vibrant new green space to neighborhoods all over Philadelphia. More than 2,000 trees have been planted or are set to become part of our green stormwater infrastructure sites. And, when we celebrate Green City, Clean Waters’ five-year anniversary in June, we will have reduced combined sewer overflows—the pollution problem the program is designed to address—by an estimated 600 million gallons each year.

As a great champion of green space and sustainability issues in Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter has been to many green infrastructure ground breaking and ribbon cutting celebrations, and we will all miss his energy!

As far as swan songs go, Mayor Nutter picked a pretty impressive project for his last ground breaking with us.

Philadelphia Water started working with PP&R on a design for Smith Playground in 2012, and we’ve already planted trees around the outside of the park that help to soak up stormwater. In the coming months, we will build two large rain gardens on the site. Connor Barwin and Urban Roots will also incorporate stormwater management tools into the design of playground’s athletic field improvements. Altogether, this site will hold over 160,000 gallons of stormwater from the park and nearby streets—enough to fill more than 3,000 rain barrels.

That means that, when it rains, the stormwater tools added to Smith will capture that rainwater and let it soak into the ground. Ultimately, that keeps pollution out of the Schuylkill River, improving the health of the water for all of us and for generations to come.

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and Michael DiBerardinis, Deputy Mayor for Environmental and Community Resources, will join Mayor Nutter, Philadelphia Water, PP&R, Urban Roots and MTWB for the event.

Projects like Smith Playground demonstrate how our collaboration with the community and other organizations can bring meaningful changes to our neighborhoods while also doing good things for the environment, and we think it's a great way to end a year that has seen lots of exciting Green City, Clean Waters projects celebrated.  

More About Smith

The project is a partnership between the Office of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, Connor Barwin’s Make the World Better foundation, Urban Roots, Philadelphia Water and the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation.

Occurring in three phases, the project will transform the aging recreation center and 7.5-acre site into a state-of-the art facility. In addition to the green stormwater tools detailed above, the site will include a newly renovated recreation center, basketball courts, playground, fitness trail, and a multi-purpose field surfaced with all new turf.