Philadelphia Parks and Rec officially withdraws city’s treetop course proposal

On Tuesday, Bob Allen, Director of Property and Concessions Management for Philadelphia Parks and Rec, confirmed to NewsWorks that Parks and Rec has officially withdrawn its proposal for a treetop adventure course in Wissahickon Valley Park.

Differences of opinion

According to an unsigned and undated statement that was released by Parks and Rec on Monday, while Parks and Rec maintains support for the educational and recreational value of the proposed course, it also “recognizes that there are significant differences in public opinion regarding the proposal.”

Unwilling to promote a project that would “counter” the Parks and Rec mission to “unify neighborhoods,” the statement went on, “Philadelphia Parks & Recreation will no longer pursue the development of a Treetop Adventure Course within Philadelphia.”

“We really feel that it was a good thing, and we regret it wasn’t embraced by the community,” Allen added to NewsWorks in a Tuesday phone interview.

Surveyors and City Council

Sources within the local opposition movement, spearheaded by the Alliance for the Preservation of the Wissahickon (formed in early April to rally against the proposal), claimed that Parks and Rec officials had sought to bypass Philadelphia City Council approval for the course in favor of soliciting state support.

In a May 20 blog post, APOW expressed concern about a “rumor” of a “legal loophole” that would bypass the need for City Council approval of the concession contract.

“It’s not happening. There’s no truth to that,” Allen said in response.

According to the APOW blog and steering committee member Denise Cotter, several Roxborough residents were concerned to see surveyors at work on the proposed course site at Wigard and Henry Avenues on Monday, and phone calls led to many conflicting reports about the nature of the inspection.

Allen denied any knowledge of surveyors there.

APOW responds

For her part, also speaking with NewsWorks on Tuesday, Cotter was pleased to see the latest Parks and Rec position. However, she remains wary, in part because no names, contact information or date were included in the new Parks and Rec statement.

“There’s something in my gut telling me I can’t totally trust it,” she said.

According to a Tuesday afternoon statement from APOW, which lists members of the Friends of the Wissahickon Trail Ambassadors, the Pennsylvania Equine Council, the Central and Upper Roxborough Civic Associations and many other groups (and about 2,000 petition-signers) as allies of the opposition, the group “applauds” the Parks and Rec decision and thanks its many supporters.

“We look forward to a continued relationship and unified mission to preserve and protect the Crown Jewel of the Philadelphia Park System, Wissahickon Valley Park.”

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