A couple months ago, we got a visit from an old friend who grew up in the area but hadn't really walked around Philadelphia in a long time. After showing off South Street West (it's different from the other side out South Street, which is different from what it was like back in the day) and the Piazza, we took a jaunt to the Schuylkill River Trail. He was in awe. And you know what, he was right to be impressed. The park is one of the best things to happen to Philadelphia in the last twenty years, impressively bringing us closer to a river that's cut off from Center City by railroad tracks. And as you've probably heard, the trail just got a 2,000 foot "floating" extension, from Locust Street down to the South Street Bridge.
We last updated you on this project back in May, when rain storms flooded some of the still-under-construction boardwalk. Since then, construction has finished and the newest addition to the trail had its grand opening last week. We visited before the weather took a turn for the chilly, and found it to be a wonderful addition that we suspect people will go out of their way to show to their friends who are visiting from out of town.
People dragging their friends to see this boardwalk will be taking them to see a cool concept, and not necessarily to enjoy the aesthetics. As This Old City points out, the execution of the boardwalk from a design perspective is rather utilitarian, with cement pavement, metal railings, and little effort to give the path itself much character. The lack of shade or any amenities could also be considered a missed opportunity on this half-mile stretch. In addition, we wonder whether fifteen feet of width will be able to accommodate cyclists, runners, and pedestrians moving in two directions.
Still, despite these complaints, you can't beat the view with a stick.
With the completion of this section of the trail, next on tap is the section that will appear behind the CHOP Schuylkill Avenue project, which will run to Christian Street. Once that's done, SRDC will have to get creative again to connect to the Grays Ferry Crescent section of the trail, due to a combination of tight riverbanks and industrial uses on the waterfront. If a second boardwalk ends up on the docket, perhaps they'll take the lessons from the first boardwalk and apply them in the future. We just hope we're still around when those decisions are being made, and that the trail doesn't stall out on Christian Street. But considering the momentum for the trail, we're optimistic.