One year ago, on Oct. 22, 2012, state, city, and federal officials came together at Pulaski Park in Port Richmond to break ground on a new bike trail and footpath along Delaware Avenue.
Almost one year to the day later, officials returned to declare the project complete and cut the ribbon on a new 1.6-mile trail that is part of a 750-mile planned “greenway” of trails along the Delaware River through Pennsylvania, which itself is part of the planned 2,500-mile East Coast Greenway project that will one day stretch from Florida to Maine.
“This is only one piece of a great vision,” said State Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.) at the opening of the $2.5 million project, held on Tuesday, Oct. 29.
Students from Our Lady of Port Richmond cheered and surged down the new asphalt path, becoming the first people to officially walk the trail, after Mayor Michael Nutter cut the ribbon.
“The school supports everything that makes the community better,” said Renee Rozniatoski, director of communications for Our Lady of Port Richmond. “To see any forward movement in terms of making the neighborhood a better place for everybody – I think it’s wonderful.”
Nutter commented that trails like this are especially needed in Port Richmond, which doesn’t have many large parks or trails for neighbors to enjoy.
“Pockets of green spaces are scarce in this densely populated part of the city,” Nutter said at the ceremony. “This trail will offer residents a space for walks and bike rides, just minutes away from the neighborhood.”
For 59-year-old Port Richmond resident and competitive biker Henrik Sienkewicz, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the new trail is a welcome addition to the neighborhood – especially compared to his experiences biking on Delaware Avenue when it didn’t have a trail.
“It was very scary. Many times when I used the road, people were throwing bottles on me, people screamed at me. I didn’t know why,” said Sienkewicz, who added that he didn’t understand at first that he wasn’t supposed to bike on a street used by trucks and lacking an official bike path.
“I would have to go all the way to the Schuylkill to use their bike trail. Now I’m going to use this one,” he said.
Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic (PROPAC) president Ken Paul attended the ribbon cutting, seated beside Mayor Nutter, and said that the new trail will improve the entire neighborhood.
“This is a day that gives the river back to the people of Port Richmond,” Paul declared.
“For years, Port Richmond has been cut off from the waterfront. For our parents and grandparents, this was their Jersey shore,” he continued. “Hopefully from now on, the only traffic jams that happen here will be from joggers and bikers.”
After cutting the ribbon and letting the students of Our Lady of Port Richmond take the first walk down the greenway, Nutter acknowledged that Port Richmond’s greenway is still separated from the neighborhood by a few blocks of industrial properties.
“We have to figure out how to make it all work together. Industry is a big part of Philadelphia’s economy,” Nutter said. “What we haven’t done enough is to utilize the assets we have.”
Utilizing the waterfront in Port Richmond is signified by both the greenway and Pulaski Park itself, which was recently redesigned from an unwelcoming park to a serene and clean space with new landscaping and benches where fishermen can drop their lines.
The Port Richmond Trail, designed by the Delaware River City Corporation (DRCC), connects to the Tacony Creek Trail via new bike lanes on Castor Avenue.
It will eventually be joined at the south by the proposed Richmond Street trail, which will run from Richmond Street and Allegheny Avenue to Delaware Avenue and Berks Street.
To the north, it will connect with the South Bridesburg trail, currently being planned to go along Delaware Avenue from Lewis Street to Buckius Street.
Funding for the project came from a TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the William Penn Foundation, the city, and a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation.
For more information on the DRCC, visit www.drcc-phila.org. For more information on the greenway project within Pennsylvania, visit www.connectthecircuit.org. To read about the East Coast Greenway, visit www.greenway.org. ••