Once this year’s growing season is over, community gardeners who work the soil at Benjamin Rush State Park will pack up and won’t be back for at least a year.
And when they return, they’ll be gardening in a much-improved park that will have hiking and trails as well as a new road, parking spaces and restrooms.
That’s if all goes according to plan, said the park’s manager, Eric Ihlein, although, he added, there is no solid construction schedule in place.
And that’s a big “if” right now. Still, he said, gardeners and members of a model airplane club who also use the park have been alerted that the park “may possibly” be closed for about a year starting in the fall.
In December, when state money for park improvements was announced, the plan was to start work this spring. Now, the idea is to get work moving by the end of September.
“We didn’t want to ruin this growing season,” Ihlein said.
Creating a plan, getting it finalized, and getting bids out for the work is a long process, he said in an interview last week. He said he didn’t believe the work has been put out for bids yet.
Lynda Mehler, Rush’s garden coordinator, said those with plots in the park’s community gardens have been told they have to be out by Sept. 24.
“The earlier we get out, the earlier we can get back in,” she said in an interview.
No one will be permitted in the park while construction is going on, she added.
Plans for developing Rush, the city’s only state park, have changed over the years and not just in matters of construction time frames. Those plans for Rush’s 275 acres seemed finalized — and financed — as the administration of Gov. Ed Rendell was in its last month.
In early December, state officeholders from the Northeast announced that $2.7 million in state funds had been dedicated to improve Rush’s underused or fallow acres.
When the work is done — whenever it is done — there will be a new entrance off Southampton Road to replace the Boulevard entrance onto Burling Avenue, which is accessible only from the northbound lanes.
Community gardens and space for a radio-controlled model airplane field will remain. There will be a parking area for the model airplane field and new parking spaces around the gardens. Also, there will be hose bibs for gardeners.
Burling Avenue will be covered over, and new roads will replace it. A comfort station with six toilets will be built. Unpaved roads for walking and biking will be constructed as will a small amount of parking spaces.
To manage storm water, parking spaces will be of porous asphalt so that water can be collected underneath and slowly released. Finally, warm-season grasses will be put into field areas, and native wild flowers and other native trees and shrubs will be added. ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org