If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably quite familiar with the perks of city living. Walkability! History! A dozen coffee shops within half a mile of your home! The list goes on. Of course, living in a city isn’t all peaches and cream. It’s not always a treat to live in such close proximity to our neighbors. For someone that doesn’t have a parking spot but needs a car, things get a little dicey after 5pm in most neighborhoods. And unless you’re very lucky, you probably don’t have anything that resembles personal green space. Philadelphia tries to solve that last issue by providing a collection of neighborhood parks and rec centers, scattered about town, allowing us to share the grass and the trees. While all of these public green spaces provide a respite from the urban environment, many of them could use a little TLC. Slowly but surely, we’re seeing the City make those necessary investments.
Wharton Square Park is one such public green space, covering the city block from 23rd to 24th Streets, Wharton to Reed. While some other neighborhood parks were converted from cemetery use or were once the sites of factories, Wharton Square Park has always existed as an open space for the public, dating all the way back to when the neighborhood was first built in the late 1800s. The park has obviously undergone multiple renovations since those early years, but it’s now due for some more work.
Currently, a section of Wharton Square Park is undergoing a very specific form of renovation, dedicated to improved storm water management. As we’ve detailed in the past, Philadelphia’s landscape consists primarily of impervious streets and sidewalks, which means that the vast majority of rain water ends up in the sewer system. The sewer system struggles to keep up with heavy rains, and when that happens the runoff ends up in the rivers. A combination of street-flavored rain water and waste water is obviously not what we want in our rivers, so storm water management has become a priority in the city over the last several years. The appropriately named Green City, Clean Waters program from the Water Department has resulted in over a thousand new storm water management tools coming online in Philadelphia since 2011, with more to come.
Part of that effort is a Green Parks initiative, which predictably means increasing storm water management in parks. At first glance, it might seem odd to consider storm water management in areas that already absorb water- but the fact that they aren’t covered by a building makes public green spaces incredibly flexible in terms of adding underground infrastructure to absorb even more water. And that’s what’s happening at the northwest corner of Wharton Square Park.
This project first came to the community back in 2015, with construction scheduled to begin the next year. For whatever reason, that work was delayed to the end of last year, though you can see it’s now very much moving forward. When the work is done, the park will have gained a new tree trench and four rain gardens, though we confess we aren’t sure whether all the work will be limited to this small section of the park. We’d think that in this large space, it would make sense to have multiple storm water management tools scattered around. Often with these kinds of projects we’ve been able to find site plans that describe the effort in great detail, but we couldn’t locate such a guide this time around. Even without those specifics though, we’re cheered that Wharton Square Park will be getting in on the action in helping keep our city greener and our rivers cleaner.