The Queen Village Neighbors Association has big plans for Weccacoe Playground.
A decade ago residents referred to the playground, a public park on the 400 block of Catherine Street, as “Broken Glass Park,” but through the efforts of the Friends of Weccacoe Playground, Weccacoe is well on its way to becoming a hub of activity for the community.
“You know it wasn’t very many years ago that this was a sad little place. It needed a heaping dose of tender love and care, and I have to say folks you certainly have done that,” State Rep. Michael O’Brien said. “The highest endorsement I can give to your work is that every time I come here, I walk out smiling.”
A festival, organized by the Friends of Weccacoe Playground and the QVNA’s Sustainability Committee, featured various activities from arts and crafts for the children to window boxing demonstrations for the adults. The festival also played host to O’Brien and Councilman Mark Squilla.
Last month Squilla, working in conjunction with the Water Department and the Parks and Recreation Department, secured $535,000 for renovations to the playground. At last weekend’s festival Squilla announced that “they have also come up with another quarter of a million dollar grant from the state because of the design and work that was put into this, so that’s really our next goal.”
The renovation plans, put together by the Community Design Collaborative, call for resurfacing of the tennis court and play area, an outdoor classroom, additional garden and green space.
“As you can see the building is a disaster,” said Suzanne Cross, the festival’s head organizer. “We need another half a million dollars in order to make this the Queen Village Community Center and not a jail.”
Renovations to the building, drawn up by Austin + Mergold LLC., call for changes to the bathrooms, larger windows to allow more natural lighting and a green roof.
“The QVNA has recently added a Schools and Youth Committee, and one of the focal points that the committee has identified is that this park is equidistant between the Meredith School and the Nebinger School and we’re trying to make all the schools in Queen Village, and primarily those two, on equal footing,” said Eleanor Ingersoll, one of the festival’s organizers. “That’s why everything happening at this park is so important right now because it’s going to be a beacon for families, for schools, for youth.”
The QVNA has put a lot of effort into securing a bright future for the communities’ youth, and for Jeff Hornstein, the president of the organization, that’s the association’s proudest achievement.
“We have really taken a stand to protect our public schools in a time of budget crisis,” Hornstein said. “We have two great schools in this neighborhood. Meredith, which most people know about, and Nebinger, which is an up-and-coming school. We’re trying to bring that school up, to live by the principle that it takes a village to raise a school.”
“We’ve campaigned, we’ve set up a donor’s choose site to raise money, and this summer we’re working in partnership with Mother Bethel AME Church to put 25 Nebinger kids through summer school, because unfortunately the school district doesn’t have the funds for summer school anymore,” Hornstein said. “Our neighborhood association has stepped up to the plate to actually pay for summer school for 25 kids.”
This summer will also hopefully mark the start of the renovations for Weccacoe. “We’re really close to getting this done,” Squilla said. “We’re hoping by the end of the summer we can have everything all geared up, ready to go and have a big put out so we can start working here on this beautiful playground.”
Squilla, O’Brien and the QVNA aren’t the only ones excited for the future of Weccacoe. Talea Bell, a Queen Village resident, can’t wait for the parks planned rehab. “I’m really excited to see so much love and attention being given to this park. Many families in the area don’t even know it exists and take their children to the more popular neighborhood parks like Seger, Three Bears and Starr Garden,” Bell said. “The festival proved this park is cherished as well. As a new mommy I look forward to the seeing the wonderful upgrades.”