A self-supported boardwalk could allow the public onto Pier 53

In about a year and a half, Washington Avenue Green park may extend out onto Pier 53.

Washington Avenue Green opened in October 2010 as a quick-hit “early action item” of the Central Delaware Master Plan – the city’s long-range vision for waterfront improvement.  It is now confined to the upland portion of the pier.

But the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation has begun early planning work on Phase II, which includes a self-supporting boardwalk that would take visitors out over the pier, but would continue to stand independently, no matter what happens to the pier beneath it – which is being reclaimed by nature.

Early plans also include a rubble reef to create more habitat for fish (fish hang out near the pier now precisely because of its state of decay) and more floating wetlands – some of which have already been anchored off-shore of the current park.

DRWC Vice President Joe Forkin said he met last month with the Urban Waterfront Action Group – in a joint session of various permitting entities, including the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Environmental Protection, and the project proposal was “well-received.”  He said the meeting provided a heads-up to the agencies, from which DRWC will need permits for the project.

Then there’s the money issue.

DRWC has applied for a $250,000 Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant for the project, Forkin told the DRWC board last week, and staff is working toward more grants as well. Exactly how much more would be needed to complete the project isn’t known, as more detailed design work has yet to be done.

Vice Chairman Jay Goldstein asked when the pier project would be completed.

The next step calls for issuing a design or design-build RFP, Forkin said. “We should know about the grant funding this fall,” Forkin said.

His estimate for project timeline: 12 to 18 months.

“This is another point of public access to the water,” said DRWC President Tom Corcoran, and beyond that, “it is the northern edge of what would someday be a wetlands park that would go all the way down to Pier 70 Boulevard and the big box stores.”

PlanPhilly reported on the prospective pier at Washington Avenue Green late last month when fishing was prohibited at Race Street Pier. Corcoran said then that fishing is allowed at Washington Avenue Green, and that a new pier park their could be designed with fishing in mind.

Contact the reporter at kgates@planphilly.com

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