Have you seen that quirky, new television ad that shows a fellow falling down a steep San Francisco street, collecting every other pedestrian in his path as he rolls and tumbles in an ever increasingly large ball toward his destination?
The ad is a fine metaphor for a process that is going on in neighborhoods all along a seven-mile stretch of the Philadelphia waterfront right now.
We are talking about the growing grassroots-fueled initiative to create a new vision for a Delaware Riverfront that has been a defining force on everyday life in this region for centuries.
Saturday, an army of citizen soldiers who care about the river, their neighborhoods and the future of Philadelphia marched with Mayor Street from Penn Treaty Park, through a potential casino site to the final destination, Pulaski Park in Port Richmond.
Along the miles-long trek, this group of people from just about every walk of life heard from experts about the history, demographics, ecology and commerce of the parcels of land that border a river that works hard and plays hard.
As cormorants and double masted sailboats passed in front of oil laden barges, we listened as our “river bards” defined past problems and solutions and challenged us to come together with the city leaders to develop a comprehensive design and development plan for the riverfront, one that will hold up to the test of time.
This third “walk and talk” covered the northern portion of the seven-mile stretch of waterfront that is being clinically examined with your help by PennPraxis and the city. Previous walks covered South Philadelphia and Center City real estate. The walks will be followed in the weeks ahead by forums and discussions that will bring an even sharper focus to the ongoing project.
Most importantly, the role that citizens are playing in the process is crucial. Thanks to you the momentum we feel is palpable, real and growing
To paraphrase some words from Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Page Editor Chris Satullo, this process will stress the shared identity that unites all Philadelphians, that of citizen over the partisan, cultural and ethnic identities that divide us.
This exercise, conducted against a backdrop of traffic congestion, development, saving green space and casino construction, is reinvigorating the practice of public service and a shared vision.
As they shout at the opera after a virtuoso performance, bravo!