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City officials recently unveiled designs for the future Riverfront Park in Bridesburg.

A walk in the park: Pictured are (from left) City Councilman Bobby Henon, William Penn Foundation executive director Shawn McCaney, DRCC chairman Bob Borski, state Rep. John Taylor, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, DRCC board member and president of the Bridesburg Community Development Corporation Joe Slabinski, state Rep. Mike Driscoll and DRCC executive director Tom Branigan.

By Tom Beck

City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, Councilman Bobby Henon, former Congressman Robert Borski and other special guests joined members of the community recently at the site of the future Riverfront Park in Bridesburg to announce the start of the final design for the 10-acre parcel.

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The park, conceived through a William Penn Foundation-funded 2015 community engagement project, will be the newest addition to the North Delaware Riverfront Greenway, a planned 11-mile section of trails and parks along the Delaware River.

“Our mission is to bring the people and the river wards and the communities and connect it back to this beautiful, majestic, wonderful river that we have,” said Borski, who is also the chairman of the Delaware River City Corporation board. “It was pretty much taken away from us, and our mission is to bring us back together and connect with it. And we’re getting there, folks, we’re getting there fast.”

The 10-acre park will be designed mostly for passive use and contain terraced seating with riverfront views, multi-use event space, a stage and unstructured play areas. The space will also concentrate on ecological restoration and showcase trails and an upland meadow with views of both the Betsy Ross and Tacony-Palmyra bridges.

This final design project, funded by the William Penn Foundation and the City of Philadelphia, will be managed by the city in partnership with the DRCC. The new trailhead park will connect directly with the existing Port Richmond Trail and Delaware Avenue Extension to the south and, in the future, to the existing K&T Trail to the north.

“Growing up, this was not a place you came,” Lovell said. “You didn’t hang out by the river. There wasn’t a lot of really good stuff that happened to the river. You didn’t have great access to it. It just wasn’t a good part of our recreation that we had.”

With the help of the William Penn Foundation, which donated $500,000 toward the project, Lovell hopes to change that with the new park.

“Every amazing public space project that is happening in the city of Philadelphia is happening because of the William Penn Foundation,” Lovell said of the foundation’s support. “The commitment they have made to public space in our city and region is extraordinary. There is no other foundation in the country that is giving the kind of support to a city that William Penn Foundation is.”

Engineering and environmental consulting firm Langan was selected to lead the park design team. The final design process will take approximately 15 months to complete, with an estimated cost of construction between $5 million and $7 million.

“I am proud to be here today to announce this latest step in this highly anticipated and highly desired park in Bridesburg, which the community has envisioned for many years,” said Henon, 6th District councilman. “The creation of this park will ‘give back’ the Delaware River to the people of Bridesburg and, when completed, will be a huge recreational asset to the community.”

To date, $800,000 has been put toward the project. According to Henon, the park will need a total of “potentially $5 million” to become a reality. ••

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