Point Breeze residents want to make sure that only the right changes are made to Wharton Square.
The Philadelphia Water Department wants to make Wharton Square more eco-friendly as a part of the Green City, Clean Waters program. Plans to build rain gardens have been introduced for the park, located at 2300 Wharton St.
But officials faced resistance from some residents at a community meeting on Oct. 15. Some said that the city is trying to take over the park and damage the work they’ve put into the park in the last few years.
“We’ve spent an awful lot of money on trees and plants,” said Trudy Gay, who defended the park’s memorial garden at the meeting. “That’s an issue.”
Point Breeze is located in the Lower Schuylkill River Watershed. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off it goes into the same place.
“The Water Department is working in neighborhoods across Philadelphia to install what we call green infrastructure – plants and trees to soak up the water when it rains, and keep that water out of rivers and streams,” said Water Department Community Planner and Public Engagement Specialist Maggie Dunn. “It’s to address a pollution problem called combined sewer overflow. That happens when rain water mixes with wastewater from homes and businesses. That mixes together all in one pipe. Our treatment plants don’t have enough capacity to treat all of the water when it rains a lot.”
Dunn defined a rain garden as a garden that depresses into the ground in a bowl shape. Plants with deep roots are planted in that area to increase water retention within both the plants and the ground they are planted in.
“Some of the feedback [from residents] was that the grassy areas and the interior of the park are well-used spaces,” said Dunn. “I expect we’ll have a number of rain gardens. They’ll be in the perimeters around the park.”
One local parent pointed out other areas of the park that need improvement, such as the unused tennis courts.
“There’s not even a net over there,” said Lashana McDonald, 32. “You could even make a basketball court. They just let the dogs run in there.”
The Philadelphia Water Department plants to meet with the community at least two more times before construction begins in fall 2016.
– Video, text and images by Madeline Presland