Friday, August 18, 2017

ECLIPSE! and other events this week

Theater, a movie and a once-in-a-decade eclipse viewing for the kids this week (and any adults like me who think eclipses are cool). Plus members of Council will be out and about listening again, and the N-twon Chamber of Commerce will show you what's planned for downtown.

Friday, August 18, "Hero School" continues at Theatre Horizon, an interactive play for children and their parents. Performances at 5, 6:15, and 7:30 pm. Only 30 seats per performance. Hero School will run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through August 27. This weekend's performances Saturday at 10 am, 11:15, 1:30 pm, 2:45. Sunday at 2 pm, 3:15, 5:30 and 6:45. Tickets at this link.  FREE tickets are available for Norristown families at this link.

Saturday, 10 am, Centre Theater's Kids' Movie presentation will be "Frozen." FREE. For more information and to reserve your seats, please send an email to centretheater@gmail.com. Since seating is limited, we recommend making reservations.

Saturday at 10 am at Coffee Talk, 507 W Marshall, Heather Lewis, the 2nd District Councilwomen will be on hand to speak with residents.

Saturday, 7-8:30 pm at Montgomery Cemetery. The Historical Society of Montgomery County will be offering a twilight tour entitled "Symbols of the Cemetery." Discover the meaning of symbols on the tombstones and the history behind them. $15 per person includes the tour, refreshments and presentation. RSVP 610-272-0297 or contact@hsmcpa.org.

Saturday, 7-11 pm, Five Saints Distilling (Main and Green). Hal Aaron performs.

Sunday, starting about 1:30 pm (after the noon mass) in the basement of St. Patrick's Church (Dekalb and Chestnut). Irish Festival with food and music.

Sunday, 7 pm at the Elmwood Park Bandshell, Summer Concert Series presents the Whiskeyhickon Boys (classic sounds). Bring a chair or blanket to sit on. Concession stand will be open.

Monday is the solar eclipse. The optimal time for viewing it in Norristown is 2:43 pm (when 80% of the sun will be blocked by the moon), but it will last from about 1:20-4 pm. Two places in town (below) will hold Eclipse Viewing events (if it's a sunny day). If you can't make either or if it's cloudy in the afternoon, check out the NASA website at this link to find a livestream of it between noon and 4 pm. Whatever you do, DO NOT look directly at the sun without approved glasses.

Monday, 1:30-4 pm, Norristown Library (Powell and Swede). Solar Eclipse Comes to Norristown. Cliff Hirst will help you safely observe the eclipse and explain how and why eclipses happen. For info, contact Cliff Hirst at 610-278-5100, x 0 or cliffhirstmnl@gmail.com.

Monday, 2-3 pm at Selma Mansion (1301 W Airy). View the Partial Social Eclipse from one of Norristown's highest points. FREE event. Elena Santangelo (yeah, me) will answer questions about the eclipse and explain the science. The Norristown Preservation Society will have safe cardboard box viewers and a telescope viewer for anyone who wants to stop by and see the partial eclipse. Or bring a box at least the size of a copy paper box and they'll help you make a viewer. Family friendly event.

Tuesday, 6-7:30 pm at the Norristown Library. Norristown Chamber of Commerce will mix, mingle, then listen to Tom Bonner, Capital Projects Program Director for Montgomery County, discuss the Montgomery County Campus Redevelopment Plan which consists of six projects in downtown Norristown including a 220 million dollar Justice Center, and renovating and expanding Hancock Square park. RSVP to this link. Food provided by Banh Mi Bar & Bistro.

Tuesday, 7 pm at Municipal Hall. Zoning Board Hearing.

Thursday, 11 am-2:30 pm on East Main in front of the Courthouse. Norristown Farmers Market. Every Thursday through Oct 26. Variety of fruits and vegetables, farm fresh, plus a new vendor with baked goods (even gluten-free).

Thursday, 6 pm, Theatre Horizon (401 Dekalb). Council Listening Tour again. This time about economic development. Bring your smartphone or a pen.

Next Saturday, Aug 26, from 11 am-3 pm in front of 401 Dekalb. The Willow School will celebrate its first 5 years with a block party.

Next Sunday, Aug 27, 10 am-noon, Coffee With A Cop at Selma Mansion. More details next week.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Riverfront Park: Good News, Bad News, and REALLY Bad News

Testing river water
It’s been a month since Public Works removed most of the vegetation from the riverbank at Riverfront Park. Yesterday I went there to help volunteers test our river water for pollutants and other water health factors. Remember, this river provides our drinking water.

The results:  Nitrate levels (caused by runoff that contains fertilizer) were slightly better than on Earth Day.  PH levels were a tad on the alkaline side but not far from optimum (changes in pH can promote the growth of nasty invasive vegetation in the river). The bad news is that phosphate levels were worse (caused by runoff containing waste—for instance, from the goose droppings along the bank, the many dogs people bring to the park to relieve themselves, and all the backyards uphill that contain dog poop, etc.)

If you read my first blog on the riverbank about 3 weeks ago, you’ll remember how important the riparian zone (riverbank) vegetation is for filtering pollutants like phosphates, to keep them out of our drinking water.

The good news is that some of the vegetation is beginning to grow back, especially where the blue sediment barrier is, because the barrier discourages people from stepping over it and trampling the plants. (The photo shows mainly broadleaf plantain—an introduced species that’s been in North America long enough to be considered native.) If left alone, the vegetation will come back on its own, though replacing some of the more recent invasive species with native shrubs and flowers is best.

However, where there’s no barrier, little growth is taking place and the soil is quickly eroding around the tree roots.

At the end of the parking lot, where the lot is closest to the water, erosion is happening so fast that no vegetation at all is visible and almost all the top soil is gone. What’s underneath is what looks like old construction fill—cement blocks, cement dust in the soil, etc. Nothing will grow there. Meanwhile, the river keeps getting closer to the asphalt.
Where the river is closest to the lot


When I tried to ask some of our council folks what the plans are for Riverfront Park, they directed me to the Norristown.org. It took me a while but I found the plan at this link.

What the plan shows is no riparian zone at all for the area in question (which goes against US, PA and Montgomery County guidelines/ regulations for riparian zones). The bank appears to be all paved (it's described as "stone protection/stone seating/bank fishing"), with large boulders along the water’s edge. Less trees than we have now. Nothing to filter pollution, nothing to prevent erosion from behind or during floods, nothing to help slow flood waters, no habitat for wildlife (which includes fish—who get much of their shelter and food from overhanging trees and nutrients that wash into the river from vegetation on land or from whatever lives in the muddy shallows (which will be covered with boulders)). The entire natural eco-system in this area would be completely destroyed. More pollution in the river, leading not only to more difficulty cleaning our drinking water, but to the growth of more invasive weeds in the river, preventing boating.

Do we prefer bottle caps instead of plants?
Even if all that wasn’t a problem, think about the added heat that less trees/vegetation and more stone would bring to the park. Honestly, there’s too much paving there on a hot summer day now as it is, let alone add more. We’re supposed to be a community that cares about the environment. Riverfront Park could be a natural area showcase for our town, a wonderful place to teach our kids the science of nature and ecology. And a great place to fish if we don’t mess with current fish habitats. And a cool, breezy place to picnic. And a healthy river for boating.

This plan is dated 2011. I don’t know of any environmental study done since then in relation to this plan. One council person said there were town halls about it last fall. I checked all the calendars, including Norristown.org and the Municipality’s Facebook events. Nope, no town halls about Riverfront Park at all.

Litter and trash in the park continues
Some of our council reps have spoken to me and seem open to discussing environmental concerns about Riverfront Park. From the rest of Municipal Hall, I’ve only heard repeated claims that Public Works “cleaned up” the riverfront last month. Apparently healthy vegetation is trash to them (while real trash is still left lying around).

Please contact your council person and ask that a healthy NATURAL environment be restored to the riverbank and incorporated into the Riverfront Park Plan, for the good of the whole community.





Friday, August 11, 2017

Talk to Council, Enjoy Music, and More

Council's at the Carver Center for their 2nd "Listening" Tour on Saturday. Rain is in the forecast anyway that day. A variety of music around town this week, all free: Irish, Italian, Caribbean and Elvis, or make your own at the Open Mic Party.

Friday, August 4, "Hero School" continues at Theatre Horizon, an interactive play for children and their parents. Performances at 5, 6:15, and 7:30 pm. Only 30 seats per performance. Hero School will run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through August 27. This weekend's performances Saturday at 10 am, 11:15, 1:30 pm, 2:45. Sunday at 2 pm, 3:15, 5:30 and 6:45. Tickets at this link.  FREE tickets are available for Norristown families at this link.

Friday, 6-9 pm at Diva's Kitchen (9 W Main). Open Mic Party. $10 to enter, $25 to be a featured act. Call 610-202-5064 for information.

Next Saturday, Aug 12, Noon-2 pm at the Carver Center. 2nd of Council's Listening Tour meetings, this one on Code Enforcement. Bring a smartphone if you have one or a pen if you don't. They'll be asking the questions, not the other way around. And they probably won't give you much time to text or write your opinion on each aspect of codes, let alone give thoughtful answers. But hopefully, there will be time allotted to speak one-on-one with a council person or with someone from the codes department like they did last time.

Saturday, 7-11 pm, Five Saints Distilling (Main and Green). Pat's Run performs.

Sunday, about 1:30 pm in Savior Hall (410 E Airy), an indoor block party for the Italian Festival of La Madonna Del Soccorso de Sciacca presented by the MSS Club. Italian food, music.

Sunday, 7 pm at the Elmwood Park Bandshell, Summer Concert Series presents Mark Reno as Elvis. Bring a chair or blanket to sit on. Concession stand will be open.

Tuesday, 10 am at Riverfront Park, the Audubon Center will be testing Schuylkill River water as part of NASA's Globe Observer environmental program. Stop by and learn something.

Tuesday, 6:30 pm at Municipal Hall. Council workshop.

Thursday, 11 am-2:30 pm on East Main in front of the Courthouse. Norristown Farmers Market. Every Thursday through Oct 26. Variety of fruits and vegetables, farm fresh, plus a new vendor with baked goods (even gluten-free).

Thursday, 7 pm at the Elmwood Park Bandshell, Summer Concert Series presents another International Night: Jah People (Caribbean Music). Bring a chair or blanket to sit on. Concession stand will be open.

Thursday is the last day to RSVP for the Kids' Fair on August 24 at Elmwood Park Zoo, presented by Senator Daylin Leach and Suburban Community Hospital. Free admission, free food, free activities. Raffle prizes. RSVP to 610-768-4200 or kidsfair@pasenate.com with you name, address and number of children and adults attending. Limited to 1500 attendees.

Next Saturday, August 19, 10 am, Centre Theater's Kids' Movie presentation will be "Frozen."

Also next Saturday at 10 am at Coffee Talk, 507 W Marshall, Heather Lewis, the 2nd District Councilwomen will be on hand to speak with residents.

Also next Saturday, 7-8:30 pm at Montgomery Cemetery. The Historical Society of Montgomery County will be offering a twilight tour entitled "Symbols of the Cemetery." Discover the meaning of symbols on the tombstones and the history behind them. $15 per person includes the tour, refreshments and presentation. RSVP 610-272-0297 or contact@hsmcpa.org.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Hero School, Festa Italiana, Community Day and Lots of MUSIC

Superheros downtown this weekend, plus the Italian Fest and Community Day. Enjoy.

Friday, August 4, Hero School opens at Theatre Horizon, an interactive play for children and their parents. Performances at 5, 6:15, and 7:30 pm. Only 30 seats per performance. Hero School will run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through August 27. This weekend's performances Saturday at 10 am, 11:15, 1:30 pm, 2:45. Sunday at 2 pm, 3:15, 5:30 and 6:45. Tickets at this link and FREE tickets are available for Norristown families at this link.


Friday, 5-11 pm in the lot behind the Holy Saviour Club, 436 E Main (park across the street in the church lot). The 3-day San Salvatore Festival begins. Italian pork, beef and sausage sandwiches, fried pizza, tomato pie, beer and birch beer on tap, music, games, rides. Saturday 4-11 pm, Sunday after last mass and procession ends (about 1 pm) until 9 pm.

Saturday, noon-4 pm at 340 E Oak Street. CADCOM's Community Day (raindate Aug 12). FREE food, drinks, snacks, music, activities, vendors and the Famous CADCOM Basketball Tourney. FREE for everyone. For info, contact Heather Lewis at 610-277-6363 x166 or email hlewis@cadcom.org.

Saturday, 6:30-9:30 pm at Diva's Kitchen, 9 W Main. Gospel Night. All You Can Eat Buffet. Music, Singing, Praying. $15.

Saturday, 7-11 pm, Five Saints Distilling (Main and Green). Jazz Night with Jazz 180.

Sunday, 2-5 pm at Elmwood Park Zoo. Free admission for Norristown residents with ID.

Sunday, 2:30 pm at the Centre Theatre. The Rachmaninoff Duo is back with Classical Music in the County Seat. (concert begins at 3 pm). FREE concert.

Sunday, 7 pm at the Elmwood Park Bandshell, Summer Concert Series presents The Winstons (Motown). Bring a chair or blanket to sit on. Concession stand will be open.

Monday, 7-8 pm at Friends Meeting House, Swede and Jacoby (parking lot on Jacoby). Presentation on cooperative homeownership by Cabini (cooperative housing would like an apartment building where, instead of a landlord, all residents would own a share of the property).

Tuesday, 7 pm at Municipal Hall. Planning Commission.

Wednesday, 5:30-7:30 pm at Norristown Library. My Life Montco meets, a group for youth between the ages of 13 and 23 who have had experiences with mental health, substance abuse, foster care and other challenges. No cost. Dinner is provided.

Thursday, 11 am-2:30 pm on East Main in front of the Courthouse. Norristown Farmers Market. Every Thursday through Oct 26. Variety of fruits and vegetables, farm fresh. Watermelons, cantaloupes and more this week.

Next Saturday, Aug 12, Noon-2 pm at the Carver Center. 2nd of Council's Listening Tour meetings, this one on Code Enforcement. Bring a smartphone if you have one or a pen if you don't. They'll be asking the questions, not the other way around. And they probably won't give you much time to think about your opinion on each aspect of codes. But hopefully, there will be time allotted to speak one-on-one with a council person or with someone from the codes department.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

In the past week, more days than not, my neighborhood has been filled with smoke, sometimes as early as 7 am in the morning.  I don’t mean the pleasant barbecue aromas from propane, or even small charcoal grills that we can expect this time of year.  I mean SMOKE, some of it so acrid, your eyes burn and you can’t help but cough.  I haven’t smelled anything so bad since Norristown outlawed the burning of trash and yard waste back when I was a kid.  Now people seem to be burning all sorts of stuff on their outdoor fires.

Not only that, but people are throwing wood into their propane grills. Well, everyone likes that nice smoky taste in their burgers, right? Except that when you do it too close to your house or your neighbors’ houses, it’s a serious fire and health hazard. We have laws against that in N-Town. And I guess it’s time for a refresher course on them.

Here’s information from The Norristown Fire Department’s site:

Municipal Ordinance 10-04 of 2010 adopted the 2009 edition of the International Fire Code.

--Can we burn rubbish, trash, grass, weeds or any other material that emits smoke directly into the air?

Section 307.1.1 of the 2009 International Fire Code prohibits the burning of these materials in which the smoke does not pass through a stack or chimney.

--Can we have a recreational outdoor fire where the material being burned is not contained in an incinerator, outdoor fire place, portable outdoor fireplace, and barbeque grill or barbeque pit?

Section 307.4.2 of the 2009 International Fire Code permits Recreational Fires as long they conform to the following regulations.

1. Fires shall not be conducted within 25 feet of a structure or combustible materials. (All of my neighbors who burn wood do so on or near their porches, within about 15 feet of their back doors and less than 25 feet from at least one neighbor.)

2. Fire must be 3 feet or less in diameter and 2 feet or less in height.

3. Portable outdoor fireplaces shall always be used in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.


4. All types of burning must be constantly attended until the fire is extinguished. A fire extinguisher with a 4-A rating, dirt, sand, water barrel or garden hose shall also be available for immediate use.
(The only substance I’ve seen kept available for immediate use is beer.)

--Can I grill on my porch or balcony?

Section 308.1.4 of Municipal Ordinance 11-08 of 2011 prohibits the use of all charcoal burners and other open-flame cooking devices on combustible porches and balconies or within 10 feet of combustible construction.
(The people in one of the row houses along our alley light up a large wood fire in a grill on their wooden deck, within 8 feet of their door and no more than 10 feet from neighbors’ houses on either side. They do this pretty much every clear night that the temperature is above freezing.)
_______________

Obviously, not following these ordinances is a fire hazard (and really, do we need more tragic fires in our town)? But also, there’s bound to be residents in every neighborhood who shouldn’t be breathing in smoke—the elderly, people with medical conditions, young children and babies, pregnant women, etc.

So I’d like to ask the people of Norristown to think of your neighbors. Don’t burn trash or yard waste at all. Don’t burn wood close to your home or your neighbors’ houses, and never leave your grill open and smoking after you’re done cooking.

For the Municipality, can’t Codes or the Fire Department, or even the NPD, enforce these ordinances somehow? I realize most of the violations are on weekends, but what good are ordinances if the residents can’t rely on them to protect their safety?


Friday, July 28, 2017

National Night Out, Theater, Music, Etc.

The worst of the nor'easter is supposed to end Saturday evening, so enjoy the indoor events until then. And bring your bug repellent to the Sunday concert.

Friday, July 28, 6-10 pm at Casa Villasenor (1339 Sandy Hill Road). Caribbean Night. $30 (includes show, music, food and one free drink).
Friday, 8 pm at Centre Theatre (208 Dekalb). Dorian Gray (the Musical) Homecoming Concert. Friday and Sunday (July 30), doors open at 7. Come see select songs and scenes from their sold-out run at the 2017 New York Musical Festival. Tickets at this link.

Saturday, 7-11 pm, Five Saints Distilling (Main and Green).  Either Len Martelli or Wes Johnson will perform. Come and find out which.
Sunday 9:30 am, Christ UCC Church (Noble and W Marshall) will hold a breakfast honoring veterans. Veterans, active duty, families and friends are welcome.

Sunday, 7 pm at the Elmwood Park Bandshell, Summer Concert Series presents Flower Power (classic rock). Bring a chair or blanket to sit on. Concession stand will be open.

Monday, deadline for the CADCOM Community Day Basketball Tournament. The tournament takes place the following Saturday, Aug 5 from noon to 4 pm at Oak Street Park. Open to kids grades 4-12 and adults. For information, email Adrienne Aiken, Aaiken@cadcom.org.

Tuesday, 5:30-8:30, National Night Out. Town block party on 1300 block of Willow Street. FREE food, fun, games. Everyone invited.

Wednesday, 10-11 am at Norristown Library (Powell and Swede). Cyber Bullying and Internet Safety. Learn how to stay safe on the internet. Join speaker Joseph Peterson (School Resource Officer at Eisenhower Middle School) as he shares his advice on how adults can stay safe on the internet, avoid scams, and deal with online bullying and harassment. Contact 610-278-5100, x2 for info.








Wednesday, 7:30 pm at Municipal Hall. Council meeting. (Wednesday this week because of National Night Out on Tuesday.)

Thursday, 11 am-2:30 pm on East Main in front of the Courthouse. Norristown Farmers Market. Every Thursday through Oct 26. Variety of fruits and vegetables, farm fresh. Watermelons, cantaloupes and more this week.

Thursday, 2-3 pm at Norristown Library in the Children's Dept. Dinosaur Dig. Join the dig with field paleontologists Mike and Roberta Straka. Interactive fossil talk followed by an actual dig for fossils. Kids will build a Triceratops with the fossil bones they discover. Afterwards, view the fossil museum. Ages 5 and up. Class size limited. First come, first served. http://www.mc-npl.org/children-services/  Contact 610-278-5100 x 205.

Next Friday, August 4, Hero School opens at Theatre Horizon, an interactive play for children and their parents. Performances at 5, 6:15, and 7:30 pm. Only 30 seats per performance. Hero School will run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through August 27. This weekend's performances Saturday at 10 am, 11:15, 1:30 pm, 2:45. Sunday at 2 pm, 3:15, 5:30 and 6:45. Tickets at this link.

Also next Friday, 5-9 pm at Holy Saviour Club, 436 E Main. The 3-day San Salvatore Festival begins. Italian foods, beer on tap, music, games, rides. Continues Saturday and Sunday. More info next week.

Next Saturday, August 5, noon-4 pm at 340 E Oak St. CADCOM's Community Day (raindate Aug 12). Food, drinks, snacks, music, activities, vendors and the Famous CADCOM Basketball Tourney. FREE for everyone. For info, contact Heather Lewis at 610-277-6363 x166 or email hlewis@cadcom.org.

Next Saturday, 6:30-9:30 pm at Diva's Kitchen, 9 W Main. Gospel Night. All You Can Eat Buffet. Music, Singing, Praying. $15.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Council (and Residents) "Listening"

I attended the first session of Council’s “Listening Tour” last night in the West End. The tours have been widely but poorly communicated online. No attendee, including myself, knew what to expect. Some people were disappointed that last night’s session wasn’t only for West Enders to voice their concerns about West End problems.

They began by letting people mingle and meet their reps and borough officials. One plus: they provided sandwiches and water. Maybe that will bring more people out next time.

Next, the 5 council reps present (Sonya Sanders, Olivia Brady, Valerie Scott Cooper, Hakim Jones and Heather Lewis) said they’d take a limited number of questions from the audience (which I think they should have done at the end instead). The first person, though, asked 3 long-winded questions, in a contentious way, arguing with every answer council reps attempted to give, so only one question was answered completely. The rest of us weren’t allowed to ask anything because we were told there wasn’t time.

The one question concerned 5 council members attending a workshop by the National League of Cities in Birmingham, AL. The questioner wanted to know if tax dollars were used to send the reps to Birmingham. The answer was yes. Personally, I have no problem with my taxes being used if I get better council reps back as a result. I’ve attended conferences myself for writing, music, teaching, etc., and I’ve always come back with more knowledge and insights, not only from the content of the seminars but from being able to network with people from around the country or world. Now, if Council began going to conferences every week or month, that would be a problem worth addressing. Once or twice a year isn’t going to break the budget. If we expect them to pay their own way, we need to give them a bigger stipend for the job. It’s thankless enough as it is. The questioner asked why only black council members went, implying that the white ones weren’t invited somehow (they simply couldn’t get off from work or chose not to go for other reasons). That question was particularly disturbing to me. We don’t need that kind of divisiveness in Norristown. People who try to create an us-against-them atmosphere, especially between races or cultures, are part of the problem, not the solution.

But on to the next part of the program.  People were asked to take a survey on Public Safety using their smartphones. Quite a few of us, including me, didn’t have smartphones, so we were given paper copies. They had this gimmicky app that let people see the smartphone responses cutely animated up on a screen (though I have to admit, I missed most of it because I was trying to give some thought to filling out a paper survey while taking notes for this blog at the same time). Also, paper surveys asked for our names while smartphone users could remain anonymous.

The problem with multiple choice surveys is that you only get a choice of the answers the questioners want to hear. And so often, their answers aren’t the only correct ones or the question needs a more nuanced response. (Example: Do you trust the police? Yes or No. My answer: I listed the things I trusted them to do and the things I don’t.)

For the questions that weren’t multiple choice, I could tell by looking at the screen that maybe 10-15% were giving thought-out replies while the rest were watching the screen and copying what someone else said. But I guess that’s still better than multiple choice questions.

Afterward, they collected the paper surveys (I hope they’re input into their database, but I doubt my non-conformist responses will be). Chief Talbot spoke a bit, then we had a chance to once more speak one-on-one with borough officials and reps, and that may have been the most productive part of the evening.

I give the Municipality a D for this first session. “Listening” didn’t figure into it, though they got a little input from the community. But it was controlled input and the gadgetry got in the way of honest opinions. The data might help a little, but it won’t solve the general feeling around town that Council ISN’T listening. Democracy is messy. As Chief Talbot said last night, he doesn’t mind hard questions. The rest of our government has to feel the same way.

Still, it’s not all Council’s fault. The contentious feeling in that room last night solved nothing (and it was contagious—by the end of the night, I was shouting at people and I went home feeling angry and frustrated). Shouting gets us absolutely nowhere. Leave your contention at home next time, or don’t come.

I hope to be at the next Town Hall. I’d suggest to Council that they do the smartphone thing before questions. Then allow people to discuss the topic without the gadgetry to elicit more honest responses. Maybe allow questions on other topics after that. And let people know on social media that this isn’t a normal Town Hall.

Maybe, Council, what you need instead is “Coffee with a Councilperson” every month in different parts of town. It’s helping the NPD. It might help you.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Riverfront Park Erosion Update

Last week I told you about the destruction of the vegetation on Riverfront Park's riverbank and explained why that vegetation is so important in preventing erosion, slowing flood waters, filtering pollution, providing a habitat for wildlife, and practically, just giving us a nice natural, cool place to picnic or fish on a hot summer's day.

I was curious as to what effect the weekend storms had on the muddy riverbank, so I went back yesterday morning. Here are some photos:

The Municipality must have also agreed that the erosion risk was now high, because they placed this blue construction bolster along the riverbank. Not a great look for our park. But more importantly in this photo, some of the scant vegetation that was left after the borough's "improvements" was gone after the weekend storms.

Here's a closer look at that bare spot from the above photo. You can see how much more vulnerable this part of the riverbank is to erosion now.

This is the end of the lot, just beyond the circle. There had been a deep eroded ditch there which Public Works filled with mud, but you can see on the right side of the photo that the runoff has already begun to form a new ditch under the bolster. This is where the parking lot is closest to the river and now there's no vegetation at all to protect either the riverbank or the parking lot.

This is the same spot on the other side of the bolster. It looks like at least a foot of riverbank washed away over the weekend here. I stood on the curb to take this photo ~ that's how close the river is to the parking lot.

This is better because the remaining trees and vegetation helped to provide protection from erosion, but you can see that some of the debris that had been on the bank is now in the water, so some flooding or erosion did take place.

This was only the result of one fierce but short storm Saturday, and some longer, more gentle bouts of rain on Sunday. I haven't had a chance to see if last night's storm did more damage. But it's absolutely imperative that native plants with good roots be replaced along the riverbank as quickly as possible.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Hot Happenings

If you can stand the heat, you'll find a few events around town this weekend.

Saturday, July 22, 9-11 am at Dunkin Donuts, Logan Square (Markley and Johnson Hwy). Coffee With A Cop. Free coffee and a chance to chat with N-town's Finest.

Saturday, 7-10 pm at Elmwood Park. Redemption 1010, a new church in Norristown, invites the community for a night of games, food and a movie. Free event. For more info, email jetpac1010@gmail.com.

Saturday, 7-11 pm, Five Saints Distilling (Main and Green). River Bones Band performs.

Sunday, 1-4 pm at Montgomery Cemetery (Hartranft and Jackson). Ice Cream Sundae Social presented by the Historical Society of Montgomery County. Live Music, Sing-a-Long, Vintage Lawn Games for the Whole Family. Bring your own blankets or chairs and beverages. Enjoy a bowl of ice cream and your choice of toppings for only $5. All are invited.

Sunday, 7 pm at the Elmwood Park Bandshell, Summer Concert Series presents British Invasion. Bring a chair or blanket to sit on. Concession stand will be open.

Monday, 1 pm at the Norristown Library (Powell and Swede) Community Room. Monday Movie Mania. This week is "The Secret Life of Pets." FREE and family-friendly (and air-conditioned).

Tuesday, 6-8 pm at Maennor-Chor Club (920 Haws Ave). Council Listening Tour begins. First of a series of town halls happening in 4 locations over the next 2 months. Council says they're actually going to listen to us (you don't need a smartphone like they claim on the poster--they just want to show off their love of gadgetry). I'm hoping for series of honest discussions and real answers without rhetoric, but I have my doubts.

Tuesday, 7 pm at Municipal Hall. Zoning Board Hearing.

Wednesday, 1:30-2:30 pm, Carver Community Center (249 Jacoby Street). Information/ Enrollment Orientation for FREE computer/copper cabling classes through our Work-Tech Career Readiness Program, presented by the Salvation Army. Contact Kristen Davis, Retention Coach/Job Developer, 215-825-4611, kristen.davis@use.salvationarmy.org.

Thursday, 11 am-2:30 pm on East Main in front of the Courthouse. Norristown Farmers Market. Every Thursday through Oct 26. Variety of fruits and vegetables, farm fresh. They even had watermelons last week!

Monday, July 31 is the deadline for signing up for the CADCOM Community Day Basketball Tournament. The tournament takes place Aug 5 from noon to 4 pm at Oak Street Park. Open to kids grades 4-12 and adults. For information, email Adrienne Aiken, Aaiken@cadcom.org.

National Night Out is Tuesday, August 1. Block party on Willow Street as usual. More info next week.

CADCOM is looking for vendors for their Community Day on August 5 (raindate Aug 12) at 340 E Oak St. $15 for business, FREE for non-profits. If you're interested, contact Heather Lewis at 610-277-6363 x166 or email hlewis@cadcom.org.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How N-Town is Wasting Our Tax $ Now

At the end of last week, Norristown Municipality posted photos of Riverfront Park on their Facebook page with the caption, “Despite the gloomy weather, Norristown Public Works and Pennsylvania American Water are hard at work trimming trees and clearing out debris to give everyone a more beautiful view of Norristown's riverfront!” 48 people hit the Like or even the Love icon. What’s not to love, right?

Me? I thought “uh-oh” and went down to Riverfront this week to check it out.

What their photos didn’t show you was the mud they left behind. They essentially ripped out 90% or more of the vegetation along the riverbank—trees, undergrowth, you name it—and left mud and debris in their wake. Sure, everyone can see the river from any point in the parking lot now, but if you want shade for your picnic on these hot days, forget it. If you want to enjoy nature without looking at ugly mud and debris, you’ll have to head for Valley Forge.

Still, the inconvenience of picnickers is only a tiny part of the problem. The real disaster here is that most of the riparian buffer zone was destroyed. What’s a riparian buffer zone? It’s native vegetation that grows along a riverbank and has 4 important environmental functions:

1. Keeping the bank from eroding
2. Slowing flood waters
3. Absorbing pollution in stormwater runoff, to keep the river cleaner
4. Providing habitat (food and shelter) for fish and wildlife

If we get one or two heavy thunderstorms this week, some of that mud will disappear, right into the river. The next time we get a week of rain, a lot of what’s left of the riverbank could disappear. The dirt around the roots of the few trees they left will erode away and those trees will fall into the river. The riverbank will go bye-bye, then the parking lot will start to crack and wash away. I heard the PA American Water Company intends to plant grass seed. That won’t work. Residential grass doesn’t have roots deep enough or strong enough for a riverbank. 

A good strong flood could speed up the erosion process. Remember a few years ago, when a flood lifted the Dragon Boat’s trailer and washed it down to the Dekalb bridge? A flood like that now would do a lot more damage to Riverfront Park—destroy the parking lot, gouge out the hill behind it, even undermine the Schuylkill River Trail—because now we have very few trees and undergrowth to slow down flood waters. If Riverfront Park is inundated, the river could actually move inland permanently, then threaten Crawford Park and everything downstream.

Pollution? We already have elevated levels of nitrates in our river. We get our drinking water from there, folks. We ought to be trying to widen and strengthen the riparian buffer instead of destroying it.

A week and a half ago I went on the Audubon Center’s bird walk at Riverfront. We saw little birds in the trees all along the riverbank and heard frogs in the water. All those birds were gone yesterday, and I didn’t hear any frogs. If you’re one of the people who like to fish at Riverfront, the fish populations will probably decrease in the coming year because of lack of habitat.

I don’t know who at Municipal Hall had this brilliant idea to destroy an entire eco-system and put at risk one of our most unique parks, and the area all around it, and possibly even our water supply. The person ought to be fired.

A"before" picture of the riverbank
What will it take to fix the problem properly? Honestly, I’m not sure it CAN be fixed. An eco-system is a complex thing that takes decades, at least, to evolve. Planting native plants all along the bank would help. Widening the riparian zone would help, even if it’s only by 10 or 15 feet. Things that won’t help: grass or more concrete or asphalt. Whatever the solution, it’ll cost more tax money. Something they wouldn’t need to spend if they’d left well enough alone.

But frankly, I can’t see anyone at Municipal Hall publicly acknowledging their mistake. Or understanding that they made one in the first place.

Ironically, the Municipality just changed their Facebook cover to a pre-disaster area photo of Riverfront Park.

You can read more about riparian buffer zones on a PDF at the USDA's website at this link.