Saturday marked a continuation of a developing initiative, occurring all throughout the United States, of promoting healthier lifestyles. Residents of Northeast Philadelphia were invited to the inaugural Healthy Trails 5K run/walk in the Tookany/Tacony Creek Park to enjoy a fun-filled day with friends and community members.
The run was used as a platform to mark the dedication of a new urban trail that links the Philadelphia park system together.
The event, which was sponsored by the Philadelphia Water Department, the Scattergood Foundation, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Friends Hospital, the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, drew residents from all age groups out to see what the new trail had to offer.
“Nobody knows it’s here”
Patty Kozlowski, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation assistant managing director, dubbed the park and the new trail the best-kept secret in Philadelphia. And although the park may be an asset to the neighborhood, sometimes having a secret can be a significant problem. “Nobody knows it’s here,” Kozlowski said. “Even the people who lived in this area for decades didn’t know it was here and that’s what we at Parks and Rec are striving for, which is to get people into the park.”
Michael DiBerardinis, deputy mayor for environmental and community resources, said he believes letting people know this park and trail exist are important for its long-term success. However, he stressed getting the community informed of its existence was not the only important thing in the trails’ continued existence. He mentioned another important thing, which was maintaining the park and trail so people could enjoy it for a long time.
“I think this trail is representative of what we are trying to do, which is lift up all the amenities [in the city] to a certain quality and then work to connect people to them. Because when they’re not that good, people don’t come. And when they’re not taken care of and when they are not meeting the standards [of what people are expecting], then people won’t come to them,” DiBerardinis said.
DiBerardinis said he believes bringing people to the park has the potential to benefit their futures.
“I think the completion of this trail and the plans to extend the trail north of the Boulevard and to connect it to the regional system is going to greatly improve the usership and the stewardship of these wonderful resources, and hopefully improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.”
This trail will link with the Frankford Creek Greenway, which will connect to the North Delaware Greenway.
Improving the Health and Vitality of the Watershed
The creation of a new trail in the Tookany/Tacony Creek Park is not focused just on improving the livelihoods of people through physical activity, but also on improving the quality of their drinking water as well.
This is where the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership comes into the picture. Julie Slavet, executive director of the partnership, said the mission of the program is to improve the health and vitality of our watershed. The 30-square-mile watershed includes neighborhoods in North, Northeast and Northwest Philadelphia, as well as communities in Montgomery County. Slavet said people tend to question the focus on Montgomery County, but she reiterated there was an important reason to pay attention those counties.
“The creek stream system comes down from Montgomery County and goes through the city and ends up in the Delaware [River],” she explained, “and for those who live in Philadelphia, their water comes from the Delaware and Schuylkill River and the city cleans it up so Philadelphians can drink it.”
Slavet said the program uses outreach events like the Healthy Trails 5K to improve the watershed and make the creeks healthier. She also said the majority of the work the partnership does focuses on the Tookany/Tacony Creek Park.
“This is a park that has had a bunch of problems over the years because of problems with storm water runoff, which is the biggest source of pollution for our waterways, and also some combined sewage overflow into the creek.”
Slavet said the creek is not as clean as the city intends for it to be. Over time, watershed group is working hard to get the water where it needs to be. She said one of the ways the group goes about achieving this is with the help of the Philadelphia Water Department.
“[The water department] funds us to do community engagement in Tacony Creek Park so we do a lot of cleanups here,” Slavet said. The partnership also hosts nature walks as well as bird walks, and is thinking of starting history walk. She said people don’t realize it, but the streams in the park were once a part of the city’s manufacturing history.
“We don’t even think about it now, but a lot of the city was built with the resources of our waterways powering factories,” Slavet said.
She said the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership is in it for the long term. “The creek here is where the water department has spent significant dollars restoring it so it looks beautiful, so we feel we owe it to the community to keep this place beautiful.”