The excitement surrounding Saturday’s celebration of a major facelift of Wilmington’s Eden Park made clear that the official re-opening of the park was no typical ribbon cutting with local dignitaries and politicians.
That’s because the $2.4 million revitalization of the popular Southbridge sports facility will help ensure that the facility that has meant so much to that neighborhood for generations going forward will offer local families some of the finest playground and recreational amenities available today.
Southbridge Civic Association President Marie Reed remembers much about the park’s vibrant past. Her recollections put in perspective just how important the reconstruction efforts will be for her community.
“This park back in the day was the bomb. I remember coming up here to all of the baseball games, the basketball games, to the football games, and oh man — the concerts. The concerts were bad,” said Reed.
But for the last several years Reed says the park was “totally neglected” and was one of the top concerns voiced by residents in her community. “It looked like a graveyard. I got a lot of complaints about it. But then a wonderful thing happened. The city contacted us and asked us what we wanted in a new park,” she said.
The fact that the community was able to contribute to the planning and design of the new space was significant to residents. Construction was managed by Rock Solid, a minority-owned company that has overseen six major playground and park renovations across the city.
Eden Park is one of the oldest parks in the state, which was given to the city in the late 1800s. The park has three swimming pools and a full-size athletic field.
Included in the renovation are
- a new artificial turf athletic field for lacrosse, football, rugby and soccer
- a new scoreboard
- a new practice field adjacent to the larger field
- a new basketball court and backboards
- new fitness and exercise stations
- significant swimming pool upgrades, including a new umbrella spray feature
- new playground equipment
- a refurbished picnic area
- new walkways and a resurfaced parking area
Wilmington City Council member Michelle Harlee said she used to play at Eden Park every summer between the ages of 8 and 12, when she would visit her grandmother in Southbridge. “To me the park feels like it has been restored to its old glory, but bigger and better. No other state park in Delaware has these amenities,” she said.
Harlee said she hopes visitors from all over the city will pay a visit to the revitalized complex. “We are excited for visitors to come here and find themselves in this expansive space cooling down in the pool, playing organized sports or working on their overall activity and fitness goals in a beautifully designed, well thought out green space,” she said.
The Eden Park renovations are part of the city’s goal to improve access for all of its residents to quality public parks. Mayor Mike Purzycki said he remembered visiting Eden Park three years ago when he was running for office and seeing the condition of it, calling it “emblematic of what happens when you just forget to care and you forget to keep your standards high.”
He committed then to get the park finished.
“This is probably the single most important effort that Council members and the Administration did together,” said Purzycki. “We talked to the young athletes who use this field and families who use this park, and we pretty much went from pillar to post and did this all over,” he said.
Purzycki said the city has improved 600 neighborhood playgrounds around the city, and he mentioned that reconstruction plans for the Anderson Hicks Community center are underway and that those will be on the same high-quality standards that were employed at Eden Park.