The Schuylkill River Trail, also known as Schuylkill Banks, has been steadily growing towards the south over the years. The trail is designed for runners, walkers, and cyclists. It has been spearheaded by the Schuylkill River Development Corporation and its president, Joe Syrnick. The first phase was built by the Street Administration in 2004 along the Center City waterfront, then a boardwalk was built to the South Street Bridge, and a portion was built along the “Dupont Crescent”, the bend in the river that runs along the former Dupont Marshall Labs in Gray’s Ferry, now the University of Pennsylvania’s Pennovation Center research campus. Last year, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation and the city started an expansion to the trail on the west side of the river, in Southwest Philadelphia. This segment of the trail is known as the Bartram’s Mile, because it passes through Bartram’s Garden, America’s oldest botanical garden. Bartram’s Mile recently opened after a ribbon cutting on Earth Day, April 22.
Bartram’s Mile extends from a plaza at 56th Street north to just shy of the University Avenue Bridge, at a former railroad swing bridge which will soon be renovated into a pedestrian bridge connecting Bartram’s Mile to the Dupont Crescent on the east side of the river. The plaza has an arch with a metal canopy and benches. There is an amazing view of the Center City and University City skylines looking north. Further north, the trail runs through the Bartram’s Garden “farm” and orchard, and then past the historic residence of founder John Bartram. Next to the residence is the Bartram’s Garden Welcome Center, where visitors can get info about the gardens and sometimes buy plants. The house, also, has bathrooms open for public use. The trail then runs past the Bartram’s Garden boat basin and dock, where free rowboat trips are available on Saturdays from 11AM to 3PM. North of the boat basin, the trail runs past industrial sites and has benches and little landscaped alcoves. A large steel industrial digging claw sits as an art piece denoting the area’s industrial significance and heritage. Near the end of the current trail is a stone monument to the former Newkirk Railroad Bridge, which used to sit along the Amtrak lines running through Northeast Philadelphia.
Bartram’s Mile runs along several industrial sites, which extend up to Grays Avenue and Lindbergh Boulevard. Many of these sites are vacant. Having this beautiful new trail along the Schuylkill River in Southwest Philadelphia will make these industrial sites more attractive for redevelopment, for residential and high-tech office space. The connection to the Dupont Crescent could make that side equally attractive for similar development.
By, Gabriel Gottlieb