Fishtown greening, a sign of Park and Rec's renewed mission

The now green Hertzell Field in Fishtown.

A.J. Thomson grew up in Fishtown under the mantra: "We do it on cinders." The sentiment is out of respect for Hetzell Field, where generations came up running, sliding and winning over the field of cinders. After decades of neglect, the field is now a bed of emerald green grass.

"Now I’m proud to say we did it on cinders," Thomson said during a press conference today under the trees of nearby Shissler Recreation Center.

Residents, city official and community partners gathered to show off the Fishtown’s Green Connection project. The $1.2 million, gray-to-green effort, runs from Shissler to the river. It includes tree plantings, rain gardens, tree trenches, and educational and recreation programs for youth.

The project, a collaboration between city agencies, non-profits and community based organizations, is an example of what’s possible within the recently merged the Parks and Recreation Department, said Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis.

"We’re doing a new business model, to do things big," said DiBerardinis, who lives in Fishtown, "and really impact young people’s lives, and impact the neighborhood at the same time.

One thing on DiBerardinis’ to-do list is to take back neighborhood parks through programming and collaboration. "We have to invite people into the park," he said, offering many ideas including the recently announced rowing program for public school students.

"The promise of the merger is a higher value to the citizens," he said, then added the bottom line.

"We want to build and lead around youth programs in the city. We want to help kids be successful."