This article ran on Page 2 of the May 6, 2009 edition of The Fishtown Spirit, where I work as a writer and copy editor.
“Pulaski Park is a little piece of the Delaware Waterfront,” said Joy Lawrence of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society at last week’s meeting about plans for the area. “It’s a hidden gem, and we want to talk about our vision for the future.”
Lawrence set the tone for last Wednesday’s meeting at Our Lady of Port Richmond, where residents of the riverwards came to find out what’s in store for Pulaski Park and the rest of the Delaware Waterfront.
Residents of all ages came to hear plans from several groups involved in the project. Present were representatives from the New Kensington Community Development Corp., Delaware River City Corp., the Department of Recreation and Philadelphia Green. The representatives took turns presenting a slideshow, which outlined the waterfront’s current progress and plans for the near future.
“Our main goal is to introduce the plan for Pulaski Park,” Sandy Salzman of the NKCDC told The Spirit. “It’s a w
onderful little park. A lot of people aren’t aware it’s there.”
Michael Diberardinis, commissioner of the Department of Parks & Recreation, was on hand to talk about his enthusiasm for Pulaski Park and for the waterfront in general. He said he feels creating better access to the river will open up new opportunities for residents and attract more people to the area.
“Opening up the river is important to keep the neighborhood strong,” Diberardinis told The Spirit. “It’s a great amenity, a great resource and makes the quality of life better.”
Throughout the meeting, all of the presenters emphasized the same key points: creating a greenway along the Delaware River in order to beautify the area, make it safer and enhance the overall quality of the neighborhood.
Sarah Thorp of DRCC itemized the elements of the current greenway project – an 11-mile stretch along the river from Allegheny Avenue to Bristol, Bucks Co. Among the features are a riverfront trail, benches, lighting, ecological restoration and parks. Also on the list are green connector streets – roads that run perpendicular to the river, which people can use for access – and signs along the greenway explaining the history of the area.
Residents were excited about the greenway project, but were particularly concerned about Pulaski Park, where past revitalization efforts have failed.
“Pulaski was totally forgotten about until about 10 years ago,” said Barbara McCabe of the Department of Recreation. “There is a renewed interest by the Parks Department because the community stepped up.”
McCabe and others have plans to deter what she calls the ‘negative elements’ of the park, like vandalism and light drug use, and she said the first priority in the Pulaski project is safety. As a step in the right direction, a new railing was recently installed that looks nicer than the old one, but is also kid-friendly and easy for fishermen to use. The railing was a large part of a $200,000 project, the first phase of the waterfront plans.
Leslie Schuster of Philadelphia Green said the more community involvement there is with Pulaski Park, the easier it will be to make the plans a reality. Among considerations for the second phase of the project are security cameras and an enhanced entrance to Pulaski Park.
“I hope it comes true,” said Port Richmond resident Lisa O’Malley. “I remember other plans that were vandalized.”
O’Malley is just one of many who expressed her hopefulness for Pulaski Park. As exciting as the plans sound, it was not too long ago that trees in the park were thrown into the river after being recently planted.
Michael Duffy has lived in Port Richmond for most of his life, and he said it’s nice to see the community putting effort into the community, especially since he recently renovated his 100-year-old home.
“It’s interesting to see so many people get together and revitalize the neighborhood,” Duffy said. “Rebuilding and cleaning up is important.”
The $2.7 million plan for the waterfront is expected to take about two years to complete. Design for the second phase will be ready in the next few months, and the construction could take up to a year. In the meantime, community leaders are encouraging residents to get involved. Thorp said even the smallest of contributions will help.
“If you can’t get involved with Friends of Pulaski Park,” she told the attendees,” then just go to the park. Encourage others to go. The more who use it, the better it is for everyone.”
If all goes as planned, there will be more people using the park. The design for the waterfront greenway includes a 12-foot wide trial with 3-foot shoulders, with plenty of room for bikers, runners, dog walkers and children to share.
The meeting brought together lifelong Port Richmond residents, newcomers and community organizations with a common goal: enhance the Delaware Waterfront so Port Richmond can meet its fullest potential, and revitalize Pulaski Park to make it a friendly neighborhood destination instead of a forgotten piece of land.
“Pulaski is the Rocky Balboa of Port Richmond,” said Patty-Pat Kozlowski, a Port Richmond resident and staff writer to The Spirit. We’ve been knocked down, she told the attendees, but we’re not out.