Bartram’s Garden Becomes A Trailhead

Filed under: Featured News,Latest News,South Philadelphia,South Philly |

A BEAUTIFULLY redesigned green space that used to house industry now invites the community at Bartram’s Garden. Photos by Eldon Graham

BY ELDON GRAHAM

If you love biking, long walks, spring weather and fresh air, then the newly developed Bartram’s Mile Trail at Bartram’s Garden is a place for you to experience. The city finally completed its long-awaited community trail on the Southwest Philadelphia stretch of land along the Schuylkill River.

Last Saturday, Mayor Jim Kenney, along with State Sen. Anthony Williams, State Rep. Joanna McClinton (both D-W. Phila.) and 3rd District Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, plus representatives from the City of Philadelphia, Department of Parks and Recreation, The William Penn Foundation, Knight Foundation, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Water Department cut the ribbon, officially opening the trail.

Just in time for spring, the 1.1-mile trail lengthens the Schuylkill River Trail from its current southern terminus at Grays Ferry Avenue to 56th Street. It now connects the Circuit Trails, Greater Philadelphia’s multi-use trail network, opening Southwest Philadelphia to the City’s park system and the health benefits of being exposed to nature.

As residents and visitors are getting reacquainted with spring, parks give them a destination to enjoy the outdoors. As Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Parks & Recreation, put it, “Visitors now have another opportunity to engage in a clean, family-friendly environment embracing the historical cultural community.” Lovell also stated there are several things for people to do along the trail, including walking, running, biking, boating or just hanging out and relaxing.

MAYOR Jim Kenney spoke to a crowd of happy visitors waiting for the Bartram Mile Trail to be officially opened to the public. Among those responsible for the new park creation are, L-R, Councilwoman Janine Blackwell; Sam Gill, Knight Foundation senior adviser to the president and VP learning & impact; Kenney; Kathryn Ott Lovell, Commissioner of Parks & Recreation; State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams; and State Rep. Joanna McClinton.

“As we anticipate thousands of regional visitors arriving for recreation, discovery and the chance to connect with history, we are proud to be our neighborhood’s gateway to nature,’ said Bartram’s Garden Executive Director Maitreyi Roy.

The much-anticipated green project made its debut on Earth Day – appropriately, because Mother Nature did not shy away from her variety of contributions to the off-and-on-again rainy day.

McClinton identified the trail as an “awesome resource” for people in the area. “This is a very exciting moment in the 191st Legislative District, because I have always admired Bartram’s Garden and how beautiful it is. How amazing it is now that we have this walkway.”

This is a great opportunity for the Southwest section of the city, McClinton enthused. “You don’t have to live in Center City to have this nice walkway – you can live right where we live to have this beautiful walkway,” McClinton said.

The trail extension is one of many plans to bring new life to Schuylkill Banks below the South Street Bridge. “This project we are embarking on with Rebuild” (the mayor’s signature investment initiative) “is about equity. It’s about every resident in the city recognizing the government thinks they have value and their neighbors have value and their kids have value,” the mayor said. “If you have that attitude about where you live and we improve the conditions where people live – improve the schools, improve the pre-K, improve all the things – we will all have neighborhoods we want to live in.”

Michael DiBerardinis, city managing director, said of the trail: “This is a living symbol of the promise of American cities. This is more than a trail and its physicality and its design elements; it welcomes every Philadelphia citizen to this place.”

Bartram’s Garden is a 45-acre public garden and National Historic Landmark on the banks of the Schuylkill River. The garden hosts the only access in Southwest Philadelphia to a vital river ecosystem and recreational trail, connecting different neighborhoods to the outdoors. There are several plans for the area already in motion. In the near future, movie nights and other fun activities will be scheduled.

STATE SEN. Anthony Hardy Williams WAS surrounded by angelic kids who can’t wait to put the new Bartram Mile Trail to good use.

Bartram’s Mile is part of the national “Reimagining the Civic Commons” initiative, which seeks to counter growing economic and social fragmentation in our cities by revitalizing and connecting parks, libraries, community centers and other public spaces. Bartram’s Mile is the first of five projects to be initiated. In 2015, Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park Conservancy and local partners embarked on a three-year, $11-million pilot project as part of this initiative.

Recently, ground was broken on a Fairmount Park project called the Centennial Commons. The other projects are The Discovery Center at Philadelphia’s East Park Reservoir; the renovation of the Lovett Library & Park on Germantown Avenue at the juncture of East and West Mt. Airy; and The Viaduct Rail Park, which will be remodeled as an elevated green space in Center City.

Philadelphia was the first major city to launch “Reimagining the Civic Commons.” Other major cities in the US, such as Chicago, Detroit, Memphis and Akron, have since adopted this model

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