A new river trail leading through Bartram’s Garden is the next step in revitalizing the public’s appreciation of the Schuylkill River.
Philadelphia’s already stunning collection of urban trails finally extends to west side of the river. The new Bartram’s Mile stretches from Grays Ferry Ave. to S. 56th St. in the Kingsessing section of Southwest Philadelphia. As its name hints, it will pass through botanical gem Bartram’s Garden near Lindbergh Blvd. The trail debuts on April 22 with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. This is the first of many steps to bring more of Philadelphia together through beautiful green space that everyone can use and enjoy.
The Schuylkill River Development Corporation supervised the construction of the trail, which broke ground in November 2015. Talks of transforming the western banks of the Schuylkill have been happening for several years. SRDC President and CEO Joe Syrnick knows that timing is everything for a project like this. The need is present and Center City’s own Schuylkill Banks has been a success since its opening in 2014.
“We’re not just opening another recreational trail,” says Syrnick. “We’re connecting neighborhoods that are yearning for more green space.”
In addition to a sense of connectivity, Syrnick knows that urban trails make Philadelphia more attractive to both city residents and tourists despite gripes about cost and how city funding is prioritized. Right after the Schuylkill Banks boardwalk opened in Center City, Syrnick noticed that the new boardwalk was used to show a completely different perspective of Philadelphia.
Photos of Philly’s skyline taken from the boardwalk were used to promote the city for the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia in 2015, 2016’s Democratic National Convention and an article that featured Philadelphia as a hot travel destination.
“Suddenly, people weren’t asking why we were building river trails,” says Syrnick. “People care about it. This all works together to help the city’s image.”
Bartram’s Mile is the first endeavor to build beautiful urban trails beyond Center City or Fairmount. The $6 million project is the first addition to happen near the western banks. The city plans to expand on it even more in the next few years. But for now, Bartram’s Garden Assistant Director Stephanie Phillips knows how much the areas near the new trail need green space.
“Southwest Philly has approximately one percent of tree coverage,” says Phillips. “The Schuylkill has a reputation for being polluted and dangerous. [Bartram’s Garden] is the only access point where people can really be in a natural setting. This will be a new gateway for people to access our park.”
Head over to Bartram’s Garden on April 22 for the Bartram's Mile ribbon cutting ceremony, free boating on the Schuylkill River and an outdoor concert. Festivities start at 10 a.m.