Big green update for Bridesburg

DRCC presents Bridesburg park updates to community at BCAA monthly meeting.

Tom Branigan shares updates with the Bridesburg community.

By Christopher Seamans

Neither ice nor snow nor the cold could keep the Bridesburg Community Action Alliance from holding its monthly meeting last Wednesday. However, the weather did depress turnout and keep some speakers from appearing.

One speaker who did show up was Tom Branigan of the Delaware River City Corporation, an organization whose mission is to connect residents of urban neighborhoods to nature through the construction of the North Delaware Riverfront Greenway — a riverfront trail and network of parks along the river from Port Richmond to Glen Foerd.

The park network includes Pulaski Park, Lardner’s Point Park, Pennypack on the Delaware Park, Pleasant Hill Park & Fish Hatchery, and a yet-to-be-constructed, 10-acre park off of Orthodox Street in Bridesburg.

“We had a community engagement process last year,” Branigan said, “and then we applied to the William Penn Foundation and the city for funding for design and both of them came through, so we’ve got enough money right now to start the design.”

Right now, DRCC is preparing a formal Request for Proposal that they hope to send out to consultants in the area at the end of this month or the beginning of April.

At that point, those consultants will respond with their proposals and how much they intend to charge. It could take the DRCC up to two months to select a consultant firm, and then the design and permitting process could take up to 15 months.

Once construction begins, it might be usable pretty quickly.

Branigan said, “We’re going to ask the designer to design it in such a way that we can phase it in so we don’t have to wait until we get all the money, the 5 to 7 million, to build the park. We can phase it in with a lot of projects. The first one could be an access project, where the neighborhood could get access to the site. They would build a portion of it, and then they would build another portion later, and another portion later. Over time, it would develop into the full park.”

All of the parks will be connected by a trail that will run 11 miles.

About half of that has already been completed, with a 1.2 mile segment that will run from the Frankford Boat Launch to Magee Avenue — the Kensington & Tacony Railroad Trail — on the verge of completion.

According to Branigan, the ribbon cutting for that segment of the trail will be on Monday, May 15 at 1 p.m. While the location hasn’t been finalized yet, there’s a good chance it will be at the Frankford Arsenal, 2275 Bridge St.

“I know that’s not convenient for people who are working,” Branigan said, “but it would be nice to see some Bridesburg residents at the ribbon cutting if some are available.”

Other segments will be completed over time, with the last section, the one that runs from Orthodox Street to the Frankford Boat Launch, not being completed for about five years.

That’s because the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation needs to lay down a new road as part of the I-95 Revive project first.

That road will not only allow DRCC to finish the trail but, according to Branigan, it might also bring some relief to nearby residents, as well.

“That’ll take the bulk of the tractor trailer traffic out of the neighborhoods, because it won’t have a reason to be in those neighborhoods,” he explained. “All the businesses are down along the river, for the most part.”

Branigan doesn’t think that will be the only positive impact. “We believe that having this trail here and improving the riverfront is attracting developers to look at that site,” he said.

One developer that has plans to move alongside the Greenway is the Math, Science, and Technology Community Charter School (MaST), which intends to build a new school on a lot north of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge that’s currently being used by contractors as a staging area for the I-95 renovation project.

Dan Adair, president of the BCAA, is already planning for the new park and trail sections that will serve Bridesburg.

“Hopefully, when all this is up and running, we’ll be starting a Bridesburg Park and Trail friends group,” he said. “I’m willing to go after the money to start [groups like that].”

He also hopes to host pop-up events like the beer gardens that have been so popular at other parks and locations throughout the city.

“I’ve already reached out to the food trucks and stuff like that to see if we can set up some sort of pop-up event, or a couple of them, to generate funds to put into the park,” he said.

Branigan said that the DRCC is not only looking for volunteers to help with cleanups and plantings, but also people to attend the events they host, which include things like movie nights, 5k runs, yoga, and fishing.

“Check out our Facebook page,” he said. “Get on there if you can. Like us on Facebook and just keep an eye on what our events are. We’re trying to build a cadre of volunteers. We’d be happy if you got involved.”

DRCC will be hosting a spring cleanup on Saturday, April 8 with snacks, refreshments, giveaways, and even a costume contest for best dressed dogs. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and volunteers will meet at Pulaski Park. Contact DRCC on Facebook for more information.

BCAA will also be hosting a spring cleanup, with locations to be determined by the number of volunteers who register. Contact BCAA on Facebook for more information and to register