A waterfront splash

Tom Branigan promises that progress is being made in the planning of a North Delaware Riverfront Greenway.

Branigan has been executive director of the non-profit Delaware River City Corporation since January. He explained that trails are in various stages of design along the 11-mile, 700-acre stretch from Allegheny Avenue to the Poquessing Creek, near Grant Avenue at the Bucks County line.

"It’s exciting," he said. "My board is anxious to get shovels in the ground. Eventually, there will be more city park space."

Branigan, 59, a longtime Fox Chase resident, worked for 38 years at the city’s Department of Streets, retiring in 2007 as an engineering manager.

DRCC, which began in 2004 and has its offices at the Arsenal Business Center, had been without an executive director because of a funding shortfall for some time before Branigan was hired.

Sometime in the late 1990s, then-U.S. Rep. Bob Borski and others began working toward ecological restoration and to open the river to the public for recreational opportunities.

A few years later, private developers began boasting that they’d build mixed-use neighborhoods that included housing, retail, recreation, offices, parks, a hotel, marina and health and wellness center.

While the economy has sidelined those developers, the DRCC continues to move forward.

The first small step took place in November 2008, when a nature trail opened adjacent to Pennypack on the Delaware, a park near Rhawn Street and the Delaware River.

Since then, the trail, which ends at Pennypack Creek, has been enjoyed by walkers, bicyclists, anglers, birdwatchers and others.

"People love to be by the river," said Branigan, who explained DRCC’s efforts at a recent Tacony Civic Association meeting.

There are proposed trails for the North Delaware Riverfront’s six neighborhoods – Port Richmond, Bridesburg, Wissinoming, Tacony, Holmesburg and East Torresdale.

The trails will wind their way through commercial uses, government facilities, boating clubs, residential developments and the Tioga Marine Terminal.

The trail will run into an obstacle at the Fire Academy, forcing it to travel on Pennypack Street to bike lanes on State Road to Linden Avenue before making its way east to Pleasant Hill Park.

All of the trail segments will be part of the national East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile bicycle trail from Maine to Florida.

The local grounds will be part of Fairmount Park, and the city Department of Parks and Recreation will handle the oversight and maintenance.

One highlight of the project includes Lardner’s Point Park, a proposed 4&1/2-acre park between Robbins Avenue and Levick Street that will feature a fishing pier, picnic tables and benches, a small parking lot, bicycle racks, trash receptacles, restrooms and a drinking fountain. A grand opening could come next spring.

There will also be a bridge that crosses Frankford Creek and a two-lane river road, managed by the streets department, which will go to Orthodox Street initially and farther north eventually.

The one constant will be 12-foot-wide trails bordered by trees and shrubbery. Folks can walk, run, bicycle, roller blade, walk their dogs and more.

"It’s going to be what we call multi-use trails. They will definitely enhance the area. We hope they develop as a link to the river," Branigan said.

Much of the plans are in design, with permits a small hurdle. A bidding process will precede construction, which isn’t too far away. Funding, of course, is always an issue.

Branigan and the DRCC are grateful for financial support from the federal, state and city governments, along with the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The whole project will take up to eight years to complete. Long-term fun ideas include kayaking, boat rides, yacht club programs and riverfront movie nights.

"There is a lot of stuff going on at the end of this year and the beginning of next year," Branigan said. "We’re going to build it and then enhance it. It’s going to be nice."

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com

On the riverfront agenda . . .

The Delaware River City Corporation has several upcoming events:

On Wednesday, May 18, from 5 to 7 p.m., the DRCC will host a Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce business card exchange at the Delaware River Yacht Club, at 9635 Milnor St.

On Thursday, May 19, from 5 to 7 p.m., there will be a fund-raising Spring Fling at the Delaware River Yacht Club. Tickets cost $50 and include beer, wine and other refreshments.

On Saturday, May 21, from 9 a.m. to noon, a cleanup and tree planting will take place at Pennypack on the Delaware park, at Rhawn Street and the Delaware River. It’ll be held rain or shine.

For more information, call 215-537-8400 or visit www.drcc-phila.org