It was late November 2011 when DCNR officials and others plunged shovels into a ceremonial groundbreaking plot, marking the start of a riverfront improvement project in Philadelphia’ s historic Tacony section. Then the message was one of hope, promise and looking to the future.
Just about six month later, ribbon-cutting scissors replaced shovels, and the dedication messages took on a celebratory tone: “Incredible! Who would believe it’s been just a few months?” “Are we at the same place? It’s beautiful!”
Not a year earlier, broken glass, scattered auto parts, even remains of a makeshift tent encampment defaced the banks of the Delaware River flowing behind them. Now the dedication group was enveloped in a manicured landscape where freshly planted trees, grass and wetland plants are thriving. New life already is coursing through this once-neglected parking and dumping area where people—and the river—had deposited their junk and litter.
Gone are the dead trees, limbs and timber piles that snagged and trapped floating debris, and made river access impossible for would-be anglers and boaters. Shorelines now have been cleaned, realigned, buffered with fresh sand, and planted with native aquatic plants. A fresh, new overlook invites visitors to pause and enjoy the new and improved view; a sea of pavers and intersecting bike and hiking paths leads the way.
Slightly downriver a new welcome mat invites. It once was a dangerous eyesore, crumbling, fenced-off remnants of an abandoned river pier. Now new decking, fencing and a safe atmosphere invite young and old alike to explore, fish or just catch an up-close glimpse of the river passing by.
Others already are coming, too. They are drawn by the new hiking and biking trails that eventually will lead them along the entire length of the Delaware, and north and south along the East Coast from Maine to Florida.
All that and more was recognized earlier this month by DCNR officials when they returned yet again to Philadelphia’s Lardner’s Point Park, a cooperative effort of private, city, state and federal agencies that now showcases a rebounding Delaware River to the multitude of visitors drawn to it banks. On April 11, DCNR presented its annual Green Park Award to the Delaware River City Corporation and Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation Department for their role in developing the riverfront improvement project.
Each year, DCNR’s Green Park Award recognizes excellence in green and sustainable park practices and efforts that connect people to nature across the state.
“When ground was broken for this park in 2011, the vision then was hailed by anglers, bikers, hikers and so many others,” said DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation Director Lauren S. Imgrund, who spoke at the award ceremony off Levick Street. “Supporters of this wide-ranging project include city residents and visitors alike, all of whom applaud this improved access to the river and the economic and aesthetic impact on its historic riverfront.”
The award is co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society.
Imgrund and other DCNR, city and corporation officials paticipated in a special tree planting and commemorative marker ceremony at the park. They were joined by city and corporation representatives.
“Our award winners serve as excellent examples for other communities who want to make their parks great assets to their residents for healthy activity, as models of how to conserve and as a place for people to connect with nature,” Imgrund said.
Lardner’s Point Park exemplifies the Delaware Riverfront’s Greenway Plan. The five-acre site was once part of the Lardner’s Point Pumping Station, one of the largest drinking water supply stations in the county. The area of the park formerly was used as a storage location for coal to power the pumping station, as well as the landing for the former Tacony-Palmyra ferry to New Jersey.
“This project is the result of a solid and rewarding partnership between the Delaware River City Corporation and the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation,” Imgrund noted.
The Delaware River City Corp. is a nonprofit organization working to transform the underutilized North Delaware riverfront corridor in Northeast Philadelphia by reconnecting people, places, businesses, and neighborhoods to the Delaware River.
For more information on DCNR’s Green and Sustainable Park Initiative, visit here.