Elly Avila moved to Roxborough last year. The stop where she awaits her bus to work overlooks the Fountain Street steps. These days, the stairway is lined with rows of neatly cropped violets and brick-laid walking paths. It’s an especially pleasing scene to behold, Avila says, because she helped transform the Fountain Street steps into the scenic landmark it is today.
Avila volunteers with Ivy Ridge Green, a group of neighbors who beautify unkempt sections of Manayunk and Roxborough during weekly clean-up projects on Tuesdays.
Avila and the Ivy Ridge Green volunteers recently met at the Fountain Street steps to pull weeds, plant flowers and clean the sewage drains, all while they endured hordes of ravenous mosquitoes.
“I always like working with of people and doing manual labor,” Avila says. “I have a desk job, so I find it more gratifying to work outdoors.”
Ivy Ridge Green’s ultimate goal is to create a 9-mile long bike trail through the city and connect it to neighboring trails in Bala Cynwyd, Lower Merion, and other parts of Montgomery County.
To that end, Ivy Ridge Green reached out to community organizations such as Destination Schuylkill River, Cynwyd Heritage Trail and the Bicycle Coalition for strategic guidance. Together, they mapped out derelict spaces in Roxborough to beautify, which they hope will accelerate the process of adding the bike trail.
“The number of cyclists in the city doubled in the years between 2007 and 2009,” says Chris Kinsley, 28, a former Manayunk resident who helped found Ivy Ridge Green in 2009. “The implications are huge, and you have to create amenities that make people on bicycle and automobiles both happy.”
Along with the Fountain Street steps, Ivy Ridge Green’s other beautification projects include Germany Hill, the Upper Roxborough reservoir and the Ivy Ridge trail.
The cleanup sessions every Tuesday connect neighbors who span generations and who may not have met otherwise.
Lifelong Roxborough resident Blaise Syrnick has organized the cleanup sessions at the Fountain Street Steps for three years. He remembers how the area stairway leading from Umbria Street to the Manayunk canal lay hidden beneath a maze of overgrown weeds for decades. Syrnick tried cleaning the steps in the early eighties, but grew frustrated by his neighbors’ apathetic attitude towards his efforts, and eventually quit.
“If you ask who owns [the Fountain Street steps], nobody will say they own it,” Syrnick says.
Years later, that attitude has changed. And the other neighbors are noticing, too.
“It’s cleaner now then it’s ever been,” says Frank Ameye, 66, a Roxborough resident of 42 years who volunteered at the June 28 clean up.
Ivy Ridge Green’s next beautification project will be held at Germany Hill this Tuesday, July 12.