Once upon a time the ‘River’ was the favored destination for waterside relaxation. “Everyone remembers days on the river. We didn’t need to go to the Jersey shore, that was our beach,” Patty-Pat Kozlowski told a crowd of Port Richmond residents attending the recent River Rumors meeting focusing on redevelopment plans for the Delaware River waterfront.
More than 100 people came to Campbell Square Park at the corner of Allegheny and Belgrade Avenues at 6:30 p.m. to hear representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Delaware River City Corp. (DRCC) and the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. (DRWC) talk about plans for the riverfront.
Like most of the land along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Port Richmond’s waterfront is industrial and forms a barrier between this community’s residential areas and the river. Nonprofits like DRCC and DRWC work with governmental organizations like PennDOT, Fairmount Park and Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation Department to reconnect neighborhoods to the riverfront and restore parks and trails.
Other neighborhood groups and associations, such as Neighbors Allied for the Best Waterfront and the Clean Air Council, had tables lining one of the pathways of Campbell Square Park to advertise their activities in the community and along the river.
Access to the river is important to residents in Port Richmond as it is almost impossible to get there now without trespassing on industrial land.
“When I was a kid, we all had to go the illegal way through the old shipyards. We used to get chased off by the cops,” said Steven Salzman, a resident of nearby Fishtown, who came to the meeting to hear what plans were in action for the area.
“It would be nice to have broad swatches of land on the river for people,” he said. “I’m excited about the Richmond Trail and spending the day fishing.”
Though the information about park and trail improvement was interesting, Salzman really came to hear PennDOT’s new design for Interstate 95.
PennDOT and DRWC have plans for changing some I-95 underpasses and improving access to the river around the highway.
“I live a block away from the access ramp,” said Salzman. “With the construction on 95, it will be a nightmare for the next seven to nine years.”
The presentations made it clear that the next couple of years will be a time of change for Port Richmond’s waterfront if all the plans are implemented.
After the meeting was over, residents snacked on pizza and water ice provided by Friends of Campbell Square.
Patty-Pat Kozlowski, who is a DJ when she’s not organizing Port Richmond community events, had kids and adults dancing to “Cotton Eye Joe” and other tunes in the middle of the park. It was an evening of community planning and socializing in Campbell Square.