City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell were among the representatives present at the ribbon cutting of the newly renovated Stephen Girard Park in Girard Estates Wednesday afternoon. Renovations to the park include new site paving throughout the park to correct significant water drainage issues, improved and replaced lighting, tree removal and landscaping, the installation of 18 new park benches and new trash receptacles.
“This is a project that was a long time in the making and it is really an absolutely beautiful park that you have here at Girard Park,” Lovell said at the ceremony. “Our councilman understands the power that great public spaces like this have to make positive change in communities and to really improve the quality of life for people who live around these beautiful public spaces.”
According to Lovell, the park cost approximately $1.2 million to renovate. According to a press release, $720,000 of the funding came from Johnson’s office.
“This park has a special place in my heart,” Johnson said. “To the residents of this area, I will always stand with you to make sure we continuously have the resources that we need to improve the quality of life and most importantly to come out and enjoy a park.”
In Lovell’s speech, she praised Mayor Jim Kenney and the soda tax for its help in raising the money necessary to fund projects like Girard Park’s renovations.
“We’re so grateful to our mayor to have the courage to think of this initiative as well as the Philadelphia beverage tax. My motto is, ‘Drink soda, build parks.’ I think it is my civic duty to drink the soda, and I do,” she joked.
Several minutes later, however, Girard Estate Area Residents representative Jody Della Barba took an apparent jab at the mayor: “[Johnson] is from South Philly and never forgot it, unlike some elected officials who forget where they came from,” she said. “[Councilman Johnson] is both accessible and cordial and a pleasure to work with. He became part of the family here in our little section of South Philly.”
On the base of the statue of Stephen Girard, which sits in the middle of the park, a plaque was put up thanking Johnson for financing the park’s renovations.