Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Happenings Along The River

Riverfront Park's new paint job as seen from the trail.
Just a quick update today on the activity on the Norristown part of the Schuylkill River Trail and Riverfront Park before I run off to get my flu shot.

In the last few weeks, as most of you know, we had Riverfest, and as some of you don't know, there was an Audubon Center program at Riverfront and a meeting of the Norristown River Action Team.

As I've explained before here on the Diary, 3 towns beside Norristown along the Schuylkill have similar teams--Manayunk, Conshohocken and Phoenixville. If you go to the Schuylkill Rivertowns Facebook page, you can read up on what the other towns are doing. The purposes of the teams is to inform the users of the trail of what each community has to offer, so as to help revitalize the towns. Also they want to let residents of each town know about the trail and to create other recreational/educational opportunities along the river.

Our team includes me, Tom McGlynn (landscaper extraordinaire), Rich Rogers (representing our Arts community), Bill Caldwell, and members of the Dragon Boat Club from Norristown, plus users of the trail who work in N-town, and representatives from the PA Environmental Council (who sponsors the Rivertowns program). Other interested N-towners would be welcomed. We meet the 4th Wednesday of each month at 3 pm at Barton Partners on East Main.

So, what's in the works this month? We found that there's only one bench along the entire 2-mile Norristown stretch of the trail, so the plan is to build some new ones using warehouse palettes. This has already been done on other sections of the trail. The finished benches are brightly painted and become part of the Art Along The Trail initiative.

The Philadelphia Mural Arts people have been surveying walls along the trail in Norristown and Conshohocken for a suitable place to put a mural. We're hoping, of course, that they choose N-town. Keep your fingers crossed.

I learned that the Audubon Center at Mill Grove has been in our elementary schools, not only doing programs about birds, but also teaching kids about native plants and how they attract wildlife. One of the Audubon reps took a look at Riverfront Park last Saturday and thought they might be able to create a native plant reserve there as a tie-in to their school program. I love this idea, because Riverfront could become an environmental classroom, which would bring families down to the river.

Mallard ducks at Riverfront Park 
I was at Riverfront last Saturday morning and I have to say, it's an incredibly beautiful spot, especially on a nice sunny day. A few people around town, when I mention Riverfront, shudder and say they'd never go there because of all the drug and prostitution activity. The times I've been there in the last year, I've never seen any illegal activity. Now that members of the Dragon Boat Club are present most days, there's always people around, so the criminals have gone off to find a more deserted spot. You'll see fishermen. You might see people sitting on the benches, or playing checkers or cards (the regulars keep an eye on the park and report any suspicious activity back to the DBC).

I'd also heard that bicyclists on the trail pedal through the Norristown stretch as fast as they can, and never come into town. Last Saturday, I followed a group of 7 cyclists down Haws Avenue. They got on the trail right before Riverfront. So users of the trail ARE coming through town, and this is great news for our community. Businesses--restaurants, theaters--within a few blocks of the trail ought to consider making their places more bike-rider-friendly. Signs for amenities will eventually go up on the trail. We need to be ready and welcome these new visitors into town.

So that's the news for now. I feel like things are really starting to happen along the river. I wish it were more visible to the rest of town, but I'll keep reporting it as I hear it.

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