BY TONY WEST/ History was made in Overbrook this year when a stream that had lain buried, polluted with sewage, for 86 years was brought back to daylight â€“ and life.
One-third of a mile of the West Branch of Indian Creek running through Morris Park has been restored after a yearlong effort by the Philadelphia Water Dept. and the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The lower end of this stretch involved cutting a new surface channel for the stream, separating it from a combined stormwater-sewage line; the upper end involved reconstruction of a wetland meadow that is part of Papa Playground. New trees and grasses have been planted to create a natural stream ecosystem.
â€œThis is the first time in Philadelphia that an urban stream has been â€˜daylighted,â€™â€ said Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug, â€œand one of the few times anywhere in the world.
This project was part of PWDâ€™s â€œGreen City, Clean Watersâ€ program, which aims gradually to replace as much of the cityâ€™s antiquated combined sewers as possible. Its innovative approaches have earned worldwide attention in water-management circles. The Indian Creek daylighting will reduce the discharge of combined sewer overflows (sewage diluted with stormwater) by an average of 1.7 million gallons a year from Cobbs Creek and the Delaware River, Neukrug said.
Essential to this $750,000 project was the determined lobbying of Congressman Bob Brady (D-Phila.), who has lived in Overbrook all his life. â€œI walked through Morris Park four times a day for eight years growing up,â€ he said. Funding was provided by Congress.
4th Dist. Councilman Curtis Jones, who negotiated city support for the daylighting project, said research shows neighborsâ€™ property values will go up as a result of the parkâ€™s improvement.
â€œWhen I moved here, I kept asking, â€˜This is Overbrook â€“ where are all the brooks?â€™â€Jerome Chavez of the Overbrook Environmental Center said. The restored stream will serve a new generation of students and neighbors, he affirmed.