It may be snowing in Philadelphia today, but this week the city got a huge dose of sunshine from the William Penn Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The two came together in Fairmount Park’s beautiful Horticultural Center to announce an $11 million grant to the Fairmount Park Conservancy that’s all about “Reimagining the Civic Commons.” The grant will leverage public and other private dollars to develop five public space projects in the city, including the Bartram’s Mile trail project. Part of the Circuit, Bartram’s Mile is a trail and greenway project, by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Schuylkill River Development Corporation, along the lower Schuylkill River that will transform industrial brownfields into an urban park.
The Circuit plays a critical role in this new Civic Commons work, as the region’s trail network will be a primary conduit for connecting these five public spaces and opening access to them for residents from all parts of the city. Here’s what William Penn’s Shawn McCaney (Creative Communities Program Director) had to say: “Philadelphia’s momentum is palpable. Because of its beautiful public spaces and civic assets, the city is increasingly recognized as a world-class destination for visitors and tourists. The Civic Commons initiative is designed to bring high-quality amenities, like the ones placing Philadelphia on a world stage, to all of our residents, especially those in our most underserved communities. And by connecting many of these destinations through the Circuit, we promote social and community inclusion within and between neighborhoods across the city, unite neighborhoods that presently may stand alone, and work to ensure that Philadelphia is, indeed, a place for all Philadelphians.”
Parks & Recreation, Bartram's Garden, Schuylkill River Development Corp. and Penn Praxis will present design concepts for building Bartram's Mile and ask for feedback from the public. Dinner will be provided at both meetings. Please rsvp so knows how much food to order!
Wednesday, July 24
Bartram Village Community Room
5404 Gibson Drive
Same entrance off Lindbergh as Bartram’s Garden, then bear right instead of left
Monday, July 29
5400 Lindbergh Boulevard
From the Schuylkill's west bank, Bartram's Garden offers evocative views of Philadelphia in all its glory and grit.
Standing in scruffy grass at the water's edge, you can see Center City skyscrapers stretch toward the clouds, while farther south, massive oil-storage tanks loom like metallic moons.
Not many people get to see the city this way, but that may be about to change.
Mayor Nutter and Parks Department officials are proposing a 1.1-mile trail to be known as Bartram's Mile that would link the east side of the river to the west and continue on that side of the Schuylkill.
Planning for Bartram's Mile is in the early stages, but Nutter hopes to finish the project before the end of his second term as part of a larger strategy to bequeath Philadelphia 500 new acres of green space during his tenure.
"We know this from the Delaware River, we certainly know this from the upper Schuylkill, that people want to be near the water. They want that access," Nutter said in an interview.
Bartram's Mile would be a short but crucial link in the region's expanding network of bicycle trails. The popular Schuylkill Banks trail must leap the river to the west side to get to Bartram's Garden and eventually Fort Mifflin.
The hope is that engineers will be able to raise and turn a disused railroad swing bridge so boats can still pass under it while cyclists cross it from Grays Ferry Crescent, a new park on the east side of the river.
"The bridge is a beautiful piece of architecture," Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis said. "People are going to love it."
It's also possible to cross the river via the Grays Ferry Bridge, but the high speeds there could deter many cyclists.
Bartram's Mile came together as Parks and Recreation officials were looking for new green space for Philadelphia.
The trail would pick up south of the Grays Ferry Bridge and wind through sites owned by the city, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. (PIDC), and railroad giant CSX Corp.
Some of the land requires environmental cleanup. People use other parts as an illegal dumping ground. The Streets Department has facilities along sections of the proposed trail but may move, and the rest of it is a mix of barren streets and green riverfront property with those compelling views.
Parks advocates hope Bartram's Mile also will accelerate a plan to extend Philadelphia's biking and walking paths south to Fort Mifflin on the Delaware River, and jump-start the redevelopment of West Philadelphia as a commercial and industrial hub.
Bartram's Mile also would bring more people to Bartram's Garden, a part of Fairmount Park that once was the historic home of American botanist John Bartram, whose fame grew as he collected specimens of seeds and plants and traded them with people here and in Europe. The garden is bursting with information about not just plants, but the city and country's early history.
But navigating the web of streets in West and Southwest Philadelphia to get to the garden is a challenge. The trail offers a simple route, with the potential for people to stumble upon the garden while out for a ride.
"The river has played a huge role in shaping John Bartram's life and the garden itself, and I think this is, in some ways, a wonderful way to reengage with the river and reestablish that historic land/water connection," said Maitreyi Roy, the garden's executive director.
Nutter plans to use money from the city's capital budget and to attract private and philanthropic dollars.
PIDC, the city's quasi-governmental economic- and industrial-development arm, hopes Bartram's Mile will jump-start plans to lure research firms and light industry to the six miles along the river's banks, from University City to Philadelphia International Airport.
"It is about economics. You green and clean a place, and you will increase economic vitality," Nutter said.
An exciting new development in Philadelphia's ongoing reclamation of old industrial land will be on display this weekend. The parcels of land on the north and south sides of Bartram's Garden, dubbed "Bartram's Mile," will be converted into trail connecting the Garden to the Schuylkill River Trail and The Circuit. These parcels will be open to the public for the first time this weekend.
Join us this Saturday for a guided bike tour of these future trails and the adjacent 58th St Greenway. On Sunday, you can take the same guided tour by foot.
Saturday, November 3rd - Guided bike tour
Start: 1:30 pm
Starting location: Bartram's Community Farm
Locations visited: Gypsum site, 58th St Greenway, Schuylkill River Trail at Bartram's, and National Heat & Power site.
Sunday, November 4th - Guided walking tour
Start: 2:00 pm
Starting location: Bartram's Garden trail head
Locations visited: same as above
Take the tour to learn how the Parks and Rec. Dept will develop the off-road route from the Gray's Ferry Bridge to Bartram's Garden, and from Bartram's Garden south along the Schuylkill.
The northern parcel is formerly known as the "National Heat and Power" site and the southern plot is the "Gypsum/Transmontaigne" site. Both are owned by the Philadelphia Development Industrial Corporation, which is deeding river frontage over to the Parks and Rec Dept to create new trails.
Note: the original version of this post was published on the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia's blog.
An early goal of closing the gaps of the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia was to create a bikeable route to Bartram's Garden, one of the City's hidden jewels. Tucked into Southwest Philadelphia along the Schuylkill River, Bartram's Garden is a 45-acre National Historic Landmark, operated by the John Bartram Association in cooperation with the City of Philadelphia.
Bartram’s Garden is best known as the home, farm, and garden of John Bartram (1699-1777), a Quaker farmer who became America’s first naturalist botanist and plant explorer.
Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Bartram's Garden and Schuylkill River Development Corporation are working to transform a mile of underutilized river frontage into two trail segments that will connect Bartram's Garden to the Gray's Ferry Bridge to the north and 58th Street to the south.
The public is invited to attend any one of four upcoming events to visit the area and give ideas on developing these trail segments.
Walking Tour - Sunday, October 28, 2-4pm (meet at Bartram's Garden Trail Head)
Bike Tour - November 3, 1:30-4pm (meet at Bartram's Farm for its Fall Harvest Day)
Dinner Conversation - November 5, 6-8pm (Bartram's Garden)
Design Workshop - November 10, 12-3pm (Bartram's Garden)
RSVP: [email protected] or 215-573-8720 or provide input online www.planphilly.com/bartramsmile