A beach for the Ben Franklin Parkway at Eakins Oval

 

Beach area at The OvalThe Department of Parks and Recreation is set next month to open a playground the likes of which this city has never seen before. The challenge will be getting to it.

The department has released a presentation showing its plans for the makeover of Eakins Oval at the northwest end of the Ben Franklin Parkway. “The new shape of fun,” as the presentation dubs it, will occupy the space in the center of the oval that had been the Parkway’s original center lanes and has more recently served as a parking lot.

Oval site plan

The Oval makeover, which has the virtue of being doable quickly and cheaply, is the first major element of the long-range plan to make the Parkway more inviting for pedestrians and neighbors the city calls “More Park, Less Way.”

Designed by LRSLAstudio, the Oval revamp has three major elements: an urban beach, a game area and an outdoor food truck cafe with a portable stage at its end.

View from cafe area

The beach will also include sandboxes for children. While this may seem redundant, it keeps adult users out of the children’s play areas.

The game area features life-size chess and checkers boards, complete with pieces, a large Twister mat and facilities for bag toss and table tennis games, among other amenities.

Cafe area with stage

The stage at the end of the cafe will allow the area to be used for outdoor concerts and performances. A small fragment of the original pavement will remain behind the stage, presumably to serve as a staging area for events; portable toilets will be provided in this space.

The goal, it appears, is to do for Eakins Oval what The Porch has done for 30th Street Station: turn a no-man’s-land into an engaging area for hanging out, socializing – and play, in this case.

And the city has a quick timetable for its transformation: a press conference formally announcing the project is set for July 11, with programming to start six days later on the 17th.

The project has loads of potential, but visitors will still have to cross the Eakins Oval traffic circle to get to it. Installation of traffic signal-protected crosswalks last year at both ends of the oval should make this a less daunting task than it was in the past, though.

But we do have one concern about this project, one we hear the city may also have thought of: what this year’s Budweiser Made in America Festival might do to it. The city spent several months and several hundred thousand dollars restoring Von Colln Field after last year’s festival, and this site lies smack in the middle of the audience area. But Mayor Michael Nutter has said that a soon-to-be-signed agreement between the city and festival organizers will hold the organizers responsible for any damage caused by the event, so perhaps we shouldn’t worry too much.

Images from Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation