New Park At Pier 68 Bookend Of $5 Million New Waterfront Investment


North section of plan | Image: Delaware River Waterfront Corporation

North section of plan | Image: Delaware River Waterfront Corporation

A purpose-built bike and walking trail will connect Pier 68, in South Philadelphia adjacent to the Walmart parking lot, with Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown, thanks to a new $5 million investment by the William Penn Foundation, officials announced today. A key to the plan is the creation of a park at pier 68 and the development of a connector trail around the Sugar House Casino, to be built by the casino beginning in spring 2014.

Mayor Michael Nutter at announcement of $5 million in new funding | Photo: Steve Currall

Mayor Michael Nutter at announcement of $5 million in new funding | Photo: Steve Currall

Funding will enable the construction of a permanent trail between Washington Avenue and Pier 70, design and construction of the pier 68 park, and design of the bulk of the trail from Spring Garden Street to Washington Avenue. Planning will begin immediately and finish up by January, 2014.

A key to the investments is granting better access to the waterfront, according to both Mayor Nutter and William Penn Foundation interim president Helen Davis Picher. “By investing in our waterfront we are reclaiming an incredible space for all Philadelphians and I would suggest all Americans,” said Nutter. “The waterfront should be a place for people to explore and to exercise and to take in a beautiful sunrise.”

Next week, twelve steps connecting the city and waterfront mandated by William Penn in 1684 will be granted an historic marker. Seizing on that, Picher said that even then, “all Philadelphians whether they did business on the waterfront or not had a right to access it.”

The Pier 68 park and a connector trail along Tasker Street will integrate the waterfront with Pennsport, officials say. The successfully completed connector along Shackamaxon Street in Fishtown will be used as prototype.

Central waterfront section | Image: Delaware Waterfront Corporation

Central waterfront section | Image: Delaware River Waterfront Corporation

Sections of the trail have been completed over the past few years, including the recently finished connector between Spring Garden Street and the Sugar House parking lot with upgraded signage, lighting, and street furniture thanks to a previous William Penn grant that the Waterfront Corporation was able to leverage for an additional $9 million, mostly from various state departments and the City. That set of funding also underwrote development of the Race Street Pier and Washington Avenue Green.

South planning section | Image: Delaware River Waterfront Corporation

South planning section | Image: Delaware River Waterfront Corporation

Officials hope to again leverage William Penn’s grant in order to complete the basic public infrastructure of a waterfront trail as the much more ambitious aspects of the waterfront master plan, such as covering sections of Interstate 95, take longer to develop.

“We’re sending a very strong message to others by investing here,” said Nutter. “Building high quality public infrastructure signals to the private sector, the market, builders, and developers in the business community that the waterfront is a place in which you want to invest.”

About the author

Stephen Currall recently received his BA in history from Arcadia University. Before beginning doctoral studies, he is pursuing his interest in local history, specifically just how Philadelphians engage their vibrant past. Besides skimming through 18th century letters, Steve is also interested in music and travel.

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  1. What’s not permanent about the current trail from Washington Ave. to Pier 70? It seems pretty great to me … and its asphalt is in much better shape than West River Drive trail.

    • For one thing, the current trail terminates at the Walmart parking lot at a fence. It is indeed a great trail (though hard to located from Washington Ave), but I imagine they need to do something to make the right-of-way permanent.

  2. I am so frustrated by the lack of comprehensive planning of bicycle and pedestrian projects in this city. It penn street trail so probably the most exquisite example. The trail ends at Sugar House and based on the maps that I have seen the trails extension will oddly wrap around the back of Sugar House (as a gravel trail?). If I would like to get from spring garden street north towards fish fish town, along the river, there is no clear bicycle route. The penn street trail diverges from the main route (not to mention the large curb that you have to navigate to get on to the trail) then ends abruptly. Following the route extend rout on the map makes no sense. Why can we not just have protected bicycle lanes on ever major road. Why is every trail some new design? Why does good design seem to always be at the stake so some grant from a private organization?

    I wish that we had the political will to redesign or streets rather than gather grants to build walking paths for wealthy weekenders. The growing number of Philadelphians riding bicycles instead of driving is at risk of remaining a fringe activity rather than the way most people get around town.

    • It’s not a lack of planning, it’s a lack of funding and poor land use planning. The trail around Sugar House is bad because Sugar House is in the way making it impossible to make a straight trail. Being set back from the turning traffic of Delaware Ave. will be great for the trail. Personally, I will just bike on the road in front of Sugar House instead of taking the river detour around it. It is difficult there and to the north because of existing land uses but you don’t necessarily want to make trail/turning conflicts. The Trail Master Plan and the Central Delaware Master Plan lay some of this out and I think we’d be in pretty decent shape for mid-distance trails if we implements all of those recommendations. Talk to your councilman and state legislator and tell them it’s important!

      • Oh, I see: “It’s not a lack of planning, it’s a lack of funding an…” I suggest that dozens of us citizens toured & talked & met & read/wrote articles about the planned Sugar House casino site must have a wide ROW along the river’s edge. But somehow it got approved without that path. NB: it also got approved & built without any real cycling path along the inland side of the casino. And all of that despite the fact that a trail was EXPECTED by the citizenry, and their voice had been shared long before casino sites were formally established, and long before plans were begun.

        That *is* bad planning.

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