New East Falls boat landing on the Schuylkill River will be ADA-accessible — and a great bird-watching spot

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A new ADA-accessible dock is being built in East Falls to make it easier to get out onto the Schuylkill River. (Courtesy of Peg Shaw)

A new ADA-accessible dock is being built in East Falls to make it easier to get out onto the Schuylkill River. (Courtesy of Peg Shaw)

Paddlers will have a new entry point onto the Schuylkill this summer in the East Falls neighborhood.

Construction on an ADA-accessible boat landing site near the East Falls Bridge on Kelly Drive commenced earlier this month and is scheduled to be complete in late August. The East Falls Development Corporation spearheaded the project with the goal of making the river more accessible to all, said Peg Shaw, a project director at EFDC.

“The development corporation really prioritized reconnecting the community to the river and recognized this location as a great location,” Shaw said.

The forthcoming dock will serve non-motorized boats, such as canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards, a Philadelphia Parks and Recreation spokesperson said in an email.

Parks & Rec is a partner with EFDC on the $360,000 project because the department believes community access to the river is essential, spokesperson Charlotte Merrick said. There are some river access points further south, closer to or on Boathouse Row, but those are generally busier and may require paddlers to have club membership or personally know someone who’s a member.

The new landing should also be a hot spot for bird watching, with several dozen species visible in the area. (Courtesy of Peg Shaw)

“This upstream access point will provide access to a diverse set of stakeholders and also new opportunities for paddlers who are not comfortable entering at the busy Boathouse Row area or do not have access to the Canoe Club,” Merrick said.

Along with creating another safe entry point to the river, the landing will include signage with historical information, a map of the Schuylkill River Greenway, and an audio unit.

The hand-cranked speaker, located at the top of the bank, will play eight pre-recorded messages covering topics like the local fishing community, bird species present near the river, and the history of the Lenape Nation in East Falls, according to Shaw. The audio recordings can be changed over time, giving visitors more reason to return to the landing to learn more about the river’s history.

Though the landing’s main purpose is for water access, Shaw is also excited for the bird-watching opportunities that it will provide visitors. In spring 2020, she brought Keith Russell, Discovery Center’s urban conservation program manager, near the site to bird-watch and Shaw’s suspicions that the area is a “hot birding spot” were confirmed.

“In the two-hour period [Russell] identified 30 species of birds there,” Shaw said.

The partner organizations have also received funding for the landing project from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the William Penn Foundation, which awarded a $233,000 grant for the project in 2017. Shaw said the EFDC will host an opening ceremony once construction is complete and the East Falls River Landing is ready for use.

While the 10-car parking lot at the top of the bank will not be expanded, if the lot is full, parks officials recommend using the spaces under the nearby Twin Bridges. Construction on a closer lot is scheduled to start next year and will take at least six months to complete, Merrick said.

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