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Rebirth at Starr Garden, the city's oldest multigenerational playground

Since 1908, Starr Garden Park has been an important neighborhood asset. Taking up the entire 600 block of Lombard Street in Society Hill, the 2.2-acre park is the oldest multigenerational playground in Philadelphia.
 
With that kind of history comes serious wear and tear, but thanks to the Starr Garden Neighbors, a relatively new community group dedicated to maintaining and improving the space, the future is bright.
 
The park has always had a lot going for it: beautiful old trees, a great location and a number of amenities including a ball field, a sports field and two basketball courts. "It’s a neighborhood gem," says Starr Garden Neighbors' Laurel Landau. "The space just needed some love."
 
The organization started small. "We organized and participated in five successful clean-up days, some city-wide," explains Landau. "We bagged thousands of pounds of leaves, collected trash, painted benches and fences, planted annuals and perennials, and removed graffiti."
 
According to Landau, the clean-up days helped the group build momentum, gaining attention from nearby residents. They eventually held two successful fundraising events. "We raised several hundreds of dollars for greening of the park," she says. "We have tapped very receptive local vendors to donate food for us to sell or gift certificates for us to give as raffle prizes."
 
The Neighbors have also secured two grants. The first, a Green Machine Grant from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, provided hands-on instruction in prepping, maintaining, selecting and planting a garden; it was installed on October 14.
 
The second, an Event Programming Grant from the Fairmount Park Conservancy, is being used for their upcoming Winterfest (2-4 p.m. Saturday, February 2). The event is being held in collaboration with Friends of Seger Park Playground, another open space just a few blocks away celebrating their new playground. Starr Garden’s portion of the fest will include a DJ, craft table, ice carving demo, face painting and other family-friendly events.
 
The next clean-up day is set for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. January 21.
 
Ultimately, the Neighbors’ ambitions reach beyond cleaning, lighting and receptacles -- it’s about quality of life and raising a family in the city. "Most of us involved have young children," says Landau. "We want them to grow up here." 

Source: Laurel Landau, Starr Garden Neighbors
WriterGreg Meckstroth

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