The pier where many Philadelphia families first arrived in this country now welcomes visitors from shore as the city’s newest riverfront park.
Pier 53, located in Pennsport near the intersection of Columbus Boulevard and Washington Avenue, behind the Sheet Metal Workers Union, now features public access to the end of the pier and panoramic views of the river; an elevated boardwalk; access to the water; and ecological improvements designed to further improve natural habitat.
It also features the Land Buoy art installation by artist Jody Pinto, who was inspired by the pier’s Ellis Island-like immigrant history. Powered with a solar panel, the top of the buoy lights up at night. Visitors can climb partway up it with a spiral staircase. Salter Spiral Stair in Collegeville, Pa., worked with Pinto and the engineers (Neshaminy Constructors) on the Land Buoy structure. Salter manufactured and delivered the stair to the pier.
The $1.5 million project extends the on-shore Washington Avenue Green park out into the water. It is part of the city’s goal to revitalize the Central Delaware, from Allegheny to Oregon avenues, as described in the Central Delaware Master Plan, implementation of which is being guided by the quasi-city Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.
The plan calls for a network of public spaces linked together by waterfront trail and transit. It also calls for the building of new residential, retail and commercial spaces and the capping of part of I-95 with a new park. The main idea behind it all: Reconnecting the city’s existing neighborhoods to the Delaware.
The new park was officially opened Friday morning at a ribbon-cutting ceremony with remarks from Mayor Michael A. Nutter; Councilman Mark Squilla; Alan Greenberger, Deputy Mayor for Commerce and Economic Development; Jeff Knowles, Regional Advisor, PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources; Laura Sparks, Executive Director, William Penn Foundation. Tom Corcoran, President of DRWC, was master of ceremonies.
The pier park is the northern-most portion of the wetlands park the master plan envisions and will stretch from there to Pier 70. The hope is that the Pier 53 project will serve as a demonstration of the wetlands restoration practices that would be used along that entire stretch. If DRWC can show that the work makes a difference, the rest of the wetlands park could be funded in part by entities that are required to do wetland restoration.