Rush State Park construction to begin after growing season

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

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