New playground open at FDR Park

Photos by Albert Yee for Fairmount Park Conservancy
Photos by Albert Yee for Fairmount Park Conservancy

A sprawling new playground is now open to the public at FDR Park.

The Fairmount Park Conservancy celebrated the unveiling of the Anna C. Verna Playground to the delight of groups of young South Philly children. 

Mayor Jim Kenney as well as representatives from Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Fairmount Park Conservancy, local leaders and the Friends of FDR Park joined together for the ceremonial ribbon cutting on Oct. 21.  

The park was named after Verna, a South Philly native who served 37 years on the City Council, including 12 years as the Council president. She passed away at the age of 90 in 2021.

“I was privileged to serve for many years on City Council with Council President Verna,” Kenney said. “And in everything she did, she was dedicated to improving the lives of residents in her South Philadelphia district, where we’re standing today, as well as across the city. I can’t think of a better tribute to her legacy than this playground — along with the transformation that has begun across FDR Park.”

The 2-acre Anna C. Verna Playground includes a mega-swing set with 20 swings of five different varieties designed for all ages, overlooking the Pattison Lagoon. It has nature-based play equipment including spinners, log and boulder scrambles, and treehouses with tube slides, rolling hills with slides, barrier-free adventure paths, a natural cork-based play surface, a dedicated picnic area with nine new picnic sites and a new picnic pavilion, seat walls located under shady groves overlooking the play area, and new landscaping featuring native and pollinator-friendly plantings, while preserving 20 trees and planting 31 new ones.

The 93,800-square-foot new playground surface is nearly 100-percent water permeable and the site has been graded to mitigate flooding and soggy conditions. The play equipment is custom-designed and built for this site, including two massive tree trunks incorporated into the tree houses. It is located near new food, drink and bathroom facilities currently under construction at the Welcome Center located across Pattison Lagoon. 

“This playground will be accessible for all Philadelphians, and we couldn’t be more excited about it,” said Maura McCarthy, CEO of Fairmount Park Conservancy. “The Anna C. Verna Playground is a great addition to FDR Park, and it was such an ecstatic feeling to see so many people join us today to explore and try out the swing and other play equipment we have installed.”

The playground is part of a reimagining of the 348-acre FDR Park, with an effort to balance activity, nature and water. The plan’s designers worked with park users and neighbors and took into account the park’s unique topography to reimagine a climate-resilient park for 21st-century Philadelphians. The playground is the second of three projects underway for the FDR Park Plan Gateway Phase.

Although the site just recently witnessed a ribbon-cutting ceremony, activities are already underway in FDR Park.

Storytime with the Free Library and face painting, along with Fall Flavors with Greener Partners, already commenced over the weekend, but more is in store at FDR.

On Nov. 4 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Mister John’s Music presents Music in the Park. Sing, dance and even learn to play a new instrument in this interactive music program with Fairmount Park Conservancy and Mister John’s Music. Mister John’s offers music education for all with private lessons, adult group classes, early childhood programs, summer camps and more.
On Nov. 11, Storytime with the Free Library + Face Painting returns from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Celebrate Love Your Park Week by joining Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Free Library’s Thomas F. Donatucci Branch for nature-themed craft and storytimes in the park. Artist AliciaWilbyArt will paint faces in the morning and 15-minute storytimes will occur every half-hour.

On Nov. 12, Art in the Park with Fleisher Art Memorial swings by. Join Fairmount Park Conservancy and Fleisher Art Memorial’s ColorWheels mobile to create a nature-inspired craft. Dubbed the “Swiss Army Knife of Art,” Fleisher’s mobile art studio ColorWheels has delivered creative experiences directly to community members in neighborhoods throughout the city since 2012.

Free parking is available in the lot across from the playground with additional parking in the lot between the boathouse and the Swedish Museum. View other Fairmount Park Conservancy upcoming events at