Water Department meets with residents to discuss Wissinoming Park project

Some neighbors worried Wissinoming Park rain garden project will take away open space.

Tiffany Ledesma, of the Philadelphia Water Department, speaks to residents Oct. 25 about a project to install rain gardens at Wissinoming Park.

Representatives from the Philadelphia Water Department met with residents Oct. 25 to go over a project to install rain gardens at Wissinoming Park.

Most of the changes will take place along Charles Street, and neighbors at the meeting raised concerns about whether the project will eliminate open space where children play. The discussion grew tense at times.

Tiffany Ledesma, from the Water Department’s public affairs division, led a walkthrough of the area and told residents most of the work would be in an existing gully that runs through the park.

The department distributed maps showing where the rain gardens will be located.

“We don’t want to take open space,” Ledesma said. “This is just an extension of the work that’s along the gully.”

Ledesma said 85 percent of the open space will be preserved.

The purpose of the project is to soak up rainwater and prevent stormwater pollution in rivers and creeks. It is part of the city’s Green City, Clean Waters program to clean up the region’s waterways.

Ledesma said the rain gardens will soak up 35 acres worth of water that runs down streets in the neighborhood when it rains.

Residents at the meeting raised a number of other concerns besides open space, although not all were against the project. Several worried the new gardens would be destroyed by people riding dirt bikes and ATVs.

The project has been six years in the making and is the second phase of a larger project aimed at improving Wissinoming Park. Construction on the gardens will not begin until spring at the earliest, Ledesma said.

More meetings and communication between the residents and the Water Department will occur before work starts, department representatives said. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com