East Torresdale group discusses Delaware River’s greenway initiative

This year will be a pivotal one for the Delaware River City Corporation’s North Delaware Greenway initiative.

According to DRCC Executive Director Tom Branigan, 2014 should bring an extension of Delaware Avenue from Port Richmond into Bridesburg, the creation of a 1.5-mile trail along an unused railroad bed in Tacony, as well as the start of construction on the Baxter Trail, which will link Pennypack on the Delaware with Pleasant Hill Park in Holmesburg and Torresdale.

Those individual projects are all part of the broader effort to create a 10-mile walking, jogging and cycling path along the river between Allegheny Avenue and the Bucks County line, Branigan said during the April 14 meeting of the East Torresdale Civic Association. Many more trail components are in the planning stages, too. One day, they will all be part of the East Coast Greenway, a continuous, traffic-free 2,900-mile path from Key West, Fla., to Calais, Maine, at the Canadian border.

The DRCC will have to overcome some obstacles before that happens, but the decade-old nonprofit organization has already cleared many hurdles. In 2011, the DRCC opened a 4.5-acre park next to a pumping station in the shadow of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge. Known as Lardner’s Point, the public green space continues to grow with new visitor amenities including a fishing pier, picnic area and multi-use path. The DRCC restored a freshwater tidal wetlands and a riparian forest stand to promote the resurgence of wildlife in the park.

In recent months, the DRCC opened another multi-use trail along Delaware Avenue from Allegheny to Lewis Street in Port Richmond. The asphalt path is 12 feet wide and 1.6 miles long and features hundreds of newly planted trees and shrubs amid industrial surroundings, Branigan said. The trail is slated to continue north beyond Lewis Street and the Betsy Ross Bridge alongside the newly extended Delaware Avenue.

According to Branigan, the Delaware Avenue project has been a decade in planning and will serve another community-friendly purpose. Designers hope to steer commercial truck traffic off of residential Richmond Street in Bridesburg. The initial phase would extend the Avenue from Lewis to Orthodox Street. A second extension to Buckius Street is planned. Engineers are studying how to continue the new road even farther to Bridge Street, where northbound trucks could access Interstate 95.

In the Holmesburg and Torresdale areas, engineers have already figured how they will work around several other problem areas. Starting at Pennypack on the Delaware near Rhawn Street, the path will cross a new bridge over the Pennypack Creek, wind behind the Philadelphia Fire Academy and continue alongside Pennypack Street, then State Road, before turning right at Linden Avenue into Pleasant Hill Park. The path will continue north along State Road to avoid privately owned condominiums, then lead into the Glen Foerd estate at Grant Avenue. Many questions remain, however, Branigan said. The DRCC is working with consultants to formulate a strategy for the “gap” between the publicly owned Tacony boat launch next to the Dietz & Watson plant and the Pennypack on the Delaware park area. The 2.5-mile stretch is dominated by private industrial properties, some active, some idle and some environmentally contaminated.

In the meantime, the DRCC is trying to engage the community in several ways. The organization is looking for area residents to participate in volunteer “friends” groups that could adopt the parks and trails along the greenway. Tacony Town Watch has already taken a keen interest in Lardner’s Point and will be honored on May 15 at DRCC’s fourth annual Spring Fling at Quaker City Yacht Club, Branigan said. DRCC Chairman Bob Borski and executive secretary Mariann Porter Dempsey will also receive awards for their service. Community members are invited to the banquet. For ticket information, visit drcc-phila.org

Also, on May 10, the DRCC will host a Lardner’s Point cleanup and tree planting. Volunteers are asked to visit the park that day to remove debris and to help plant a dozen new trees. Details are also available on the website.

• In unrelated business, the East Torresdale Civic Association announced that any political candidates wishing to address residents in advance of the May 20 primary should notify the civic association by April 30. The next ETCA meeting will be on May 12, 7 p.m., at Liberty Evangelical Free Church, Linden Avenue and Milnor Street. To contact the ETCA, visit easttorresdalecivic.com or email to etcaonline@verizon.net. ••