A gleaming, newly renovated playground in Wilmington’s Little Italy officially reopened today with summer splash pads, cool rope climbing equipment, and some wonderful views of the city that many have never seen until today.
The 20,000 sq. ft. Father Tucker Park located at 9thand Scott Streets had been in disrepair for decades. But today, on a beautifully sunny day, it represented something new and vibrant for the city. Dozens of kids from local camps and daycare centers happily bounded from one activity to another to check out all that was new. Little ones giggled with delight as they cooled off under the water showers.
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki kicked off this morning’s celebration with an enthusiastic thumbs up for the new playground. “When I got here this morning, I said to myself, this is the greatest little park I have ever seen. This is remarkable!”
The playground has multiple slides and swings, a variety of climbing equipment, exercise pathways, benches, picnic areas, a spray shower with colorfully stained concrete and a wood fiber safety surface.
The price tag for the renovations was $600,000, half of which came from a National Parks Service grant of $306,000 for construction and design improvements. Other contributors included the City of Wilmington, West Side Grows Together, the Delaware State Legislature, the Friends of Parks Groups, DNREC, and other businesses and foundations. Mayor Purzycki called the new park a “symbol of consensus” between the many organizations and partners that addressed a community need.
Five years ago a group of neighbors banded together to form the “Friends of Father Tucker Park,” with the goal of making the park a safe, high-quality place where children could play and serve as an anchor in the Italian Festival neighborhood. Lead volunteer Paula Roddy spoke on behalf of the group at today’s dedication.
“When I first moved to this area a little over five years ago, I found myself walking past this park, and honestly it was disheartening,” said Roddy. “It was sad to see the condition of the equipment and the park in general. I knew that this park could be so important for our community. Our kids needed somewhere where they could come out and enjoy themselves.”
Roddy said a lot of thought went into making sure Father Tucker Park was an all-inclusive park that could serve the recreational needs of people of all ages and abilities. But she said it was ultimately the kids themselves who designed the park.
The “Friends” group visited several nearby schools, community centers and libraries to specifically ask kids what type of equipment and features they wanted in a public playground. They presented four separate park designs, and students voted on their favorite. With additional input from parents and teachers, Friends of Father Tucker Park worked with Kompan, a leading playground equipment manufacturer, to select the final pieces and determine their location.
Roddy said the process was long, but she and all of the volunteers who are proud of the result. “I didn’t think it was going to take five years. But I think considering how much all of these kids already seem to be enjoying all of the new swings and slides, it’s been well worth it.”
The Father Tucker Park renovation completes one part of the 10-year West Side Grows Together neighborhood revitalization plan. West Side Grows Together has several initiatives underway to improve the quality of life and strengthen neighborhoods in Wilmington’s West side. West Side’s Sarah Lester recognized the many local residents and stakeholders to helped propel the community playground design project forward. “You are now the stewards of this wonderful new park,” she said.
West Side Grows plans to continue their park revitalization work with two new parks in the West side: Cool Springs and Tilden Parks. Timetables for those renovations have not been announced.