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Community Gets Updates on North Phila. Green Improvements

This illustration shows how stormwater tree trenches, an important tool in the Green City, Clean Waters plan, work. Plans are under way to install these tools in the neighborhood around Fotterall Square and Vandergrift/Danny Boyle Park. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
This illustration shows how stormwater tree trenches, an important tool in the Green City, Clean Waters plan, work. Plans are under way to install these tools in the neighborhood around Fotterall Square and Vandergrift/Danny Boyle Park. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

The Hope Partnership for Education and other community members in North Philadelphia got an update on Green City, Clean Waters improvements planned for their area during the Hope Community Day celebration on Saturday, July 25.

The event, held with the help of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), the Community Design Collaborative, Temple University, the 22nd Police District and Youthbuild Philadelphia Charter School, shed light on a number of initiatives to improve the community.

Philadelphia Water gave an update on the city-wide Green City, Clean Waters plan, which was introduced in 2011, and presented plans to install green stormwater tools around Fotterall Square, Vandergrift/Danny Boyle Park, and nearby streets. Because the improvements will impact the park, we’re working closely with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to make this plan a success.

Designs for the local improvements began to take shape in January, 2015 and are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. As this was the very first Hope Community Day, we were very proud to be a part of the festivities and were excited to see so much interest in greening projects.

The plans discussed on July 25 currently call for creating stormwater tree trenches in the following locations:

• Cumberland Street from 12th to 11th

• 12th Street from York to Cumberland

• York Street from 12th to 11th

• 11th Street from York to Cumberland

• Cumberland Street from 11th to 10th

• York Street from 10th to 9th

• Cumberland Street from Germantown Avenue to 9th Street

• 9th Street from Germantown Avenue to Cumberland

• York Street from 9th to Germantown Avenue

• Susquehanna Avenue from Franklin to 7th Street

• York Street from 8th Street to 7th Street

As a part of the presentation, members of the community learned how the tree trenches will help reduce sewer overflows by taking in stormwater during rain or snow storms and slowly releasing into the ground.
The project will also include a rain garden or infiltration basin at Vandergrift/Danny Boyle Park, located at York Street and Germantown Avenue, which will further help to reduce stormwater that may overwhelm sewers.

Thanks again to Hope for hosting the event and to everyone who came out! Philadelphia Water will continue to update the community as the plan moves forward, and we’ll post information about progress here on the Philly Watersheds blog.

Greening Smith: What We're Doing with Eagles' Connor Barwin

Connor Barwin of the Philadelphia Eagels speaks at the 2nd annual MTWB Foundation concert.
Connor Barwin of the Philadelphia Eagles speaks at the 2nd annual MTWB Foundation concert.

Philadelphia Water selected West Passyunk’s Smith Playground for Green City, Clean Waters improvements way back in 2012. While we were busy doing community outreach and design for the popular 7.5-acre recreation area, located at 25th Street and Snyder Avenue, we also happened to develop a great relationship with Connor Barwin of the Philadelphia Eagles and his Make the World Better Foundation (MTWB).

That led to our working together to rebuild the Ralph Brooks Park in nearby Point Breeze, which is currently under construction. When finished, the park will have new basketball courts, new play equipment, sidewalk improvements, tree plantings and a rain garden to manage stormwater runoff from the site.

It’s been such a hit, MTWB decided to bring the synergy that made Ralph Brooks Park a success to Smith, where we were already laying the ground for green stormwater improvements. Barwin held his second MTWB fundraising concert at Union Transfer in June, and generous giving resulted in $300,000 for Smith improvements. Tickets for the sold-out show made up over $150,000 of that, and Barwin matched the sales for the rest.

From MTWB:

Revitalization of South Philadelphia’s Smith Playground will provide major improvements to the 7.5-acre park including the Recreation Center building and adjacent play spaces, new football and baseball fields and the installation of Green Stormwater Infrastructure by the Philadelphia Water Department. Key partners on the project include Urban Roots, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and Philly Rising.

So, what will our work bring to the Smith renovations? We’re contributing an estimated $500,000 to install four green stormwater tools at the site.
They include:

• A  basin beneath the soccer field at the southwest side of the park

• A basin beneath the sidewalk on the west side of the park

• A rain garden between the sidewalk and the basketball courts

• A rain garden on a paved area at the corner of 25th and Snyder

Besides enhancing the beauty of the site, these improvements will capture the equivalent of 2 SEPTA buses of water almost every time it rains—water that would otherwise be rushing into local sewers and waterways. The stormwater tools will mostly handle runoff coming from 25th Street, with a total of 1.66 acres of hard, impervious surface draining into the basins and rain gardens, where it will slowly filter into the earth and water table. That means less local flooding during rain events and healthier local waterways.

"I want to thank Union Transfer, the musicians and sponsors for another year of unwavering support," Barwin said after the concert. "Not only did we aim to put on an entertaining show for fans, but all proceeds will go towards transforming South Philly’s Smith Playground into a safe and enjoyable place for the community. I am humbled to live in a city that is filled with so many people who want to make their neighborhood, and the world, a better place to live, to grow and to learn."

We’re proud to be working with Barwin, MTWB, Urban Roots, Parks and Recreation and all the other partners, and we’re blown away at the generosity of everyone who contributed to make this public space better for all the West Passyunk residents who use the space and live near Smith.

Our green infrastructure construction at Smith is set to begin during summer 2016 and will take 4-6 months to complete, so stay tuned for more updates!

Do You Know What's Happening at Venice Island?

No? Come out to Main and Lock streets in Manayunk tonight at 6 p.m. and get the inside scoop along with a free scoop of ice cream. 

Cyclists in Manayunk stop to ask about the new Waterways artwork. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Cyclists stop to ask about the new Waterways artwork in Manayunk. Credit: Philadelphia Water. 

While we were working with Mural Arts to install artist Eurhi JonesWaterways, a 10-block string of colorful steppingstones in Manayunk, our public engagement team took the time to do an informal survey of people passing through the neighborhood.

During the first two weeks of May, we spoke with 113 people at Pretzel Park, on Main Street, and at Venice Island–all places now featuring the temporary street art of Waterways

What we found reinforces our motivation for creating Waterways in the first place, and shows a definitive gap between what people want for the Schuylkill River and what they know about the work being done to make that desire a reality.

First, we asked people if they knew about the Philadelphia Water improvements that debuted at Venice Island in October 2014. Those improvements include a massive stormwater basin that keeps as much as 4 million gallons of untreated water from entering the Schuylkill as well as Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center.

Of the 113 people we spoke to, just 11 said they knew about Philadelphia Water’s work at Venice Island. 

That lack of knowledge is precisely why we wanted to use art as a means of highlighting infrastructure. The work we do can be a little hard to wrap your head around if you aren’t an engineer or environmental scientist. Waterways uses compelling imagery to draw people toward the somewhat hidden grounds of Venice Island, where signs help to explain what the infrastructure–much of it shielded from view beneath the ground–is doing to make the Schuylkill a cleaner, healthier river.

And, if our informal little survey tells us anything, it’s that people really do care about making our rivers healthier places where both people and wildlife can thrive. When asked whether they support improving the health of our waterways, all 113 people said yes. People were also unanimously positive when asked if they think waterways can be incorporated into our city’s public spaces for recreation.

So, people want cleaner rivers and they want them to be a part of our recreational lives: places where we can fish, hike, go boating and more. Yet very few people seem to know what a huge public effort has been made in the pursuit of those goals.

Tonight, people will have a chance to learn about what Philadelphia Water is doing for the Schuylkill as we unveil  Waterways at a 6 p.m. ceremony and ice cream party (the treats are on us). Join us at Main and Lock streets, tour the artwork with Eurhi Jones, and educate yourself about how we’re working to make the Schuylkill the river we all want it to be.

If you can’t make it tonight, find us on Venice Island this Saturday during the PLAY Manayunk festival, and help spread the word about Philadelphia Water and Waterways to your neighbors. After all, it’s your informed support that makes fighting for the health of our rivers possible.

Follow along on social media: @PhillyH20 on Twitter  and Instagram and Facebook.com/PhillyH2O and use #phillywaterart to see what is being posted about Waterways!

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