Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Riverfront Park's Facelift

Confession: You all probably know by now that I'm a native Norristowner, born and raised here, yet a year ago at Riverfest was the first time I'd ever visited Riverfront Park. Driving down Haws Avenue, I was thinking, "Where IS this place?" especially after I saw the depressing-looking underpass, graffiti on the bridge above, surrounded by equally depressing Industrial Age stone buildings.

But once past those hurdles, I pulled into the park and was amazed by how beautiful the Schuylkill is at that spot and how exciting it was to see dragon boats filled with kids out on the water. Riverfront has a large parking lot, charcoal grills, benches to sit and look at the view, a cement dock, a spot to put small boats into the water, and a stairway that leads you up onto the Schuylkill River Trail. The Dragon Boat Club had also added a large storage container to use as their boathouse, and the students from ACPPA had painted a mural of a dragon on the container's side. At 2013 Riverfest, the boathouse was dedicated and the dragon named "Puff."

One of the problems with Riverfront Park's location is that the building of the railroad back in the 19th century essentially created a wall between the park and the town. Many natives don't even know there's a park there. Even if you did know, the look of the entrance discouraged a lot of people from using the place. The Dragon Boat Club has been changing that. First, they put up a new sign at the entrance and planted flowers around it.

During the last year, you probably heard that a spring flood picked up the boathouse and floated it down the Schuylkill to the Dekalb Street bridge. It was recovered and brought back. Soon after, the kids from ACPPA showed up to retouch the paint and add new flowers on the side of the container.
An electrical box was installed so the park could have lights and sound for evening events.
That awful rusting railing alongside the entrance was repainted fire engine red.
And best of all, the graffiti-cover bridge has been turned into a big, bright park sign.

We still have to contend with the "wall" between the park and town. It might help if Council would consider putting Riverfront Park directional signs out on Main Street, and maybe line the last block of Haws with some new trees (the way Fornance was lined with Sycamores, to lead people to Elmwood Park when it first opened in 1900). Make Haws Avenue an inviting entryway.

Stop by Saturday and see Riverfront Park's facelift for yourself. RIVERFEST starts at 11 am and will go to at least 4 pm. Music all day. Food vendors. At 1 pm, they'll have a Breast Cancer Survivor Flower Ceremony. If you want, you can try a kayak, outrigger canoe, canoe or paddle board, or ride in a dragon boat. Or just enjoy the view and celebrate the revitalization of the park. The weather's supposed to be sunny and beautiful. See you there.

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