Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hidden River

A new green space along Philly's Schuylkill River brings calm to the stress of city life.  

On a bike commute across Philadelphia the other day I came across a wonderful new park along the Schuylkill River, which is said to be part of an extensive placemaking project named Schuylkill Banks. The river was named the Schuylkill by Dutch explorer Arendt Crossen, the name translates to Hidden River in Crossen’s native language. Although it remains unclear why he chose this name, it has clearly remained a hidden river for many Philadelphians, including me.

The new park, located in the Greys Ferry area, is part of a city initiative to make green spaces along Philly's waterways, which the website describes as "part of the Schuylkill River Trail, a 23-mile link from Philadelphia to Valley Forge National Historical Park, and part of the nationally designated Schuylkill River National Heritage Area. Plans call for a continuous trail following the river, which starts in the headwaters of Schuylkill County and winds 130 miles down to its confluence with the Delaware River, at the southern tip of the city of Philadelphia."

In any case, what I came across was apparently the new southern leg of this effort, which is not well charted yet on city websites. A view from Google Maps that has not yet been updated from earlier in the year shows an older original outline of the park's path labelled as the Dupont Crescent Trail. It begins just over the east side of the 34th Street Bridge and hugs the river for about a mile until it lets out back onto the city grid near Wharton Street and Schuylkill Avenue.

The ride by bike is alluring: there are places to view sites along the river, a cool little skateboard park, elegantly restrained contemporary landscaping features and the inclusion of plaques along the way to highlight the historical significance of the area. At the end of the trail is a beautiful river landing with picnic tables and benches. The park is a perfect antidote to the congested, industrial part of the city that surrounds it - a commendation is well deserved for the planners of this great project.--D.A. DeMers

New trail paved over the original Dupont Crescent trail.

Serenity along the banks of the Schuylkill River.
Great reading spot with benches.

New skateboard park.

Landing area with green infrastructure landscaping.

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