Council authorizes acquisitions for Delaware River trails

At its last session of the year on Thursday, City Council adopted two bills authorizing the city to acquire property for recreational trails along the Delaware River waterfront.

One bill would allow the city to condemn a portion of industrial waterfront property between Penn Treaty Park and Sugarhouse Casino, which is not currently in use. The Planning Commission approved the acquisition at its meeting last month. Commission Chairman Alan Greenberger told the Inquirer that the City had tried negotiating with the owner to get an easement on the property, but those negotiations haven’t gone anywhere.

The bill, introduced by Councilman Mark Squilla, is the only instance in recent memory of the city resorting to eminent domain to develop the Delaware River Trail. So far, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation has worked with property owners on the Central Delaware to get use of the various bulkheads and banks that the city is hoping to connect to each other and the East Coast Greenway, the whole length of the eastern United States. DRWC has so far been successful at piecing the trail together on a voluntary basis. Greenberger said that condemnation is the last resort for the small segment of waterfront between Penn Treaty Park and Sugarhouse. The public has already secured trail access for one of two properties between the park and the casino. The acquisition would complete the connection of that segment of the trail.

The other bill, introduced by Councilman Bobby Henon, allows the city to acquire either by purchase or condemnation land along a former Kensington & Tacony Railroad right-of-way. The city and the Delaware River City Corporation have been working to establish the K&T Trail for years. At a Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, Alan Greenberger said the city is still negotiating for a purchase or lease of the property in question and doesn’t expect to use eminent domain.

All trails come to an end, and Thursday was the last City Council meeting for three Council members. Dennis O’Brien, an at-large Republican who formerly served as the Speaker of the Pa. House of Representatives, was narrowly edged out by perennial candidate Al Taubenberger in the general election in November after one term. Marian Tasco, who has represented the 9th Councilmanic District since 1988, is retiring at the end of the year. And W. Wilson Goode, Jr., an at-large member since 2000, lost his seat in the primary election in May.

The trio was sent off in a shower of praise from their colleagues. In her farewell speech, Marian Tasco acknowledged everyone from the sergeants-at-arms and the Council stenographer to her staff and, sort of, the press. Still, O’Brien’s speech was longer.

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