A city park to rise on a forlorn pier on the Delaware

Philadelphia Inquirer (PA), 2014-06-27

June 27 -- Pier 68 , a 400-foot-long slab of crumbling concrete and overgrown weeds, juts into the Delaware River from a shopping center parking lot off Christopher Columbus Boulevard . The fence surrounding it is looped with barbed wire. Several signs read, "Danger: Do not trespass."

On Thursday, Mayor Nutter and the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. (DRWC) announced that by the summer of 2015 this forbidden space will be transformed into a manicured park.

"This park will supply green space in a section of the city that really needs it," Nutter said.

He added that Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger will be giving fishing lessons on the pier every Monday evening after its completion, but that was a joke.

"They will be free lessons, of course," he went on. "We are public servants, so we cannot charge."

The pier's redevelopment is part of the DRWC's 20- to 25-year plan to create more than a dozen similar waterfront parks from Pier 70 to Pier 53 , all connected by the a single path called the Delaware Trail . The DRWC expects to finish Pier 53's makeover before the end of this summer.

"This is part of what will eventually become a whole new network of parks every half-mile," said DRWC President Tom Corcoran .

Digital images of a redesigned Pier 68 showed modern wooden benches, hammocks, picnic tables, a lawn for sunbathing, a paved extension of the Delaware Trail , and of course, plenty of trees.

"When the sun's out in the summer in Philadelphia , you're going to want shade," Greenberger said.

A "cut" in the pier, Greenberger added, would allow water from the Delaware to pool into a small pond for fish and aquatic plants.

The layout for the park, designed by Philadelphia -based architecture firm Studio Bryan Hanes, relied partially on surveys and public meetings with residents of Pennsport, the surrounding area.

"We had tremendous community engagement," Greenberger said.

While Pennsport citizens provided public approval, a number of private and public organizations, including Wal-Mart , Wells Fargo and the William Penn Foundation , chipped in cash to help pay for the $1.7 million park's construction.

But plenty of work remains to be done. The DRWC estimates that its long-term plan will cost more than $814 million . The funding would be wasted, community leaders warned, if security problems and isolation caused parks like Pier 68 to remain vacant.

"We need a safe, well-lit, clean way to get from park to park," said Pennsport Civic Association president James Moylan as he stood before the barren lot. "This is just another piece of the puzzle in the work to reclaim the Delaware waterfront."


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