Vidalia Park stretches between Vyse and Daly Avenues, streets whose names combined give the park its name. “Vidalia” is also the name of a famously sweet and tasty onion that is harvested in Vidalia, Georgia.
Several groups and individuals helped foster the creation of this park in the West Farms neighborhood. After an expansion of the Bronx Zoo engulfed Firemen’s Field, a local recreation facility, community members worked for years to secure a park in the area. The City budgeted more than $2 million for a new playground in West Farms, and in the summer of 1992, an ad hoc committee of Community Board 6 was formed to oversee the park’s design, construction, and use. Dr. Roger Hart, a psychologist and professor at the City University of New York Graduate School, interviewed parents and children in the West Farms area concerning how the park should be designed. Hart and a group of students acted as consultants on the project, offering suggestions for where the park should be located and what should be included in the park. The lot chosen for the park is next to a strip of stores in West Farms, where shoppers and police walking by make for a safe, inviting environment. Rather than wait for the City to begin building the park, community members shaped a baseball diamond in the lot with their own equipment, and held an unofficial opening on July 4, 1992.
Vyse Avenue runs across the former village of Fairmount, where the Vyse family owned an estate called Rocklands. When the Vyse property was divided, John T. Adee and other developers built Bronxwood Park. Streets in the development received names such as Hickory and Oak because of the trees in the area. Vyse Avenue was originally called Chestnut Street. Vidalia Park was first known as West Farms Park. It was briefly renamed Chestnut Park in May 1998, before being renamed again a month later, this time as Vidalia Park, by Commissioner Stern.
Daly Avenue, formerly Elm Street, was named for Judge Charles P. Daly, whose father-in-law, Philip Lydig, was the last owner of what is now Bronx Park. For a time, the avenue was called Catherine Avenue, presumably in honor of another landowner, Catherine Lorrillard Camman.
Parks acquired one acre of this property in an exchange with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development on December 30, 1993. In the exchange, Parks gave the Rosedale Pool property to HPD, where they planned to build subsidized housing, and Parks in turn received part of the lot where Vidalia Park now sits. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services assigned the remaining area of Vidalia Park to Parks in 1997.
In 2000, construction of Vidalia Park was completed, and what was once an empty space filled with trash and debris is now a functional, inviting attraction in the community. There were several stages involved in the extensive construction project. Piles of refuse and rubble had to be excavated from the lot. Landscapers leveled off the property, planted trees and shrubs, and built a community garden. Asphalt, concrete pavement, decorative pavement, fences, and gates were added. Metal bleachers, benches, picnic tables, game tables, trash receptacles, and bicycle racks were distributed throughout the park. Wood and steel play equipment, tot swings, and safety surfacing were installed in the children’s play area, and handball and basketball courts were built. Vidalia Park also features drinking fountains, a spray shower, and a comfort station, making this a parkland that all can enjoy.
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