Following decades of industrial development, decline, and then neglect, Philadelphia has begun to reclaim the brownfield sites along its rivers. We were eager to be part of this effort at Bartram’s Mile, a one-mile stretch of formerly industrial river frontage along the western banks of the Schuylkill in the Kingsessing neighborhood. Our work began with a rapid civic engagement and public planning process that brought together community representatives, as well as key stakeholders. Design involved the salvage and reuse of site elements, from remnants of industrial heritage to existing trees and shrubs. The trail reconnects historic Bartram’s Gardens and the adjacent community with its riverfront. In the future, it will also serve as a gateway to a continuous, 130-mile long Schuylkill River Trail Network.
Design features are focused on reconnecting people to the outdoors and the Schuylkill River, while celebrating and enhancing the history and horticulture of Bartram’s Garden and connecting up to the Schuylkill Banks Trail. The project involved intensive work with multiple stakeholders, from oil companies to non-profit advocates, along with site-specific challenges such as environmental remediation and historic preservation issues that provide a framework for design.
Our research department has launched a 3-year landscape performance study to investigate whether biochar can help establish meadows in degraded, post-industrial landscapes. We created three constructed berms that are uniformly seeded with a native meadow mix. Biochar was applied to two of the berms during construction, while the third functions as an experimental control. Our research will help us design better methods for restoring native ecology in these disturbed landscapes.