New Park in East Mt. Airy Could Be Established By the Spring
Parks and Recreation Department and Fairmount Park officials talked to residents during a meeting Thursday night.
If all goes well, six acres of land along Cresheim Creek will be part of the Fairmount Park system as early as May.
A group called the Wissahickon East Project, which has been working to get the land intengrated into the city's network of parks, hosted a public meeting Thursday night at Grace Epiphany Episcopal Church to discuss its efforts. The gathering was patronized by a few special guests—Philadelphia Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Mike DiBerardinis and Fairmount Park Executive Director Mark Focht were on hand. About 65 others attended.
The two said they were in full support of the plan to convert the land, which is located near where Stenton Avenue crosses the creek by Cresheim Valley Drive. The section is bordered to the immediate south by Crest Park Road and to the immediate east by Anderson Street.
"I don't forsee any problems with this piece of land," Focht said.
A group of neighbors that comprises Wissahickon East has been fighting to keep the land from being developed for more than a decade.
The land was previously owned by DeSouza Brown, a developer that had talked about building condominiums on the site or potentially placing a parking lot there. It had discussed building 25 condominiums there that each would have encompassed 1,200 square feet.
But neighbors protested. The group formed itself 10 years ago in an effort to keep the land from being developed.
In 2004, according to the Wissahickon East Web site, the group negotiated a conservation easement that kept the land from being developed.
But after that, Camp said, the city could have had the opportunity to purchase the land, but walked away from the deal. Recently, however, they have shown more interest in purchasing it and making it part of Fairmount Park.
That interest manifested itself during Thursday's meeting. DiBerardinis talked about the Parks and Recreation Department's plan to eventually add 500 new acres of open space to the park system, which currently covers 5,600 acres. The six acres along Cresheim Creek would be part of that.
One reason it wants to add so much land is because 250,000 city residents don't live within a quarter-mile of a park. The department wants to reduce that number, and also eventually wants to plant 300,000 more trees here.
In order for the land to be converted, Focht said, City Council must pass an ordinance. A hearing will be scheduled in advance.
"There's nothing controversial about this," he said. "We don't anticipate a big, raucous hearing."
Still, Focht said, it's important for residents to come to the meeting to express their support for the measure. He said he hopes it passes by May or June.
Antje Mattheus, who is the managing advisor for the Wissahickon East group, said once the project is complete, the group will consider what to do with the land. It could potentially put playground equipment there, such as slides and swings.
The group will hold a cleanup day in the area Dec. 4 along Cresheim Valley Drive and along the creek near Anderson and Woodbrook Lane. It can't specifically clean the six acres yet, though, since it's private property, but officials discussed the possibility of sending a legal document to DeSouza Brown letting them know they wouldn't sue them if someone got hurt with the hope of being allowed to clean the area.
If not, Wissahickon East co-Chair Elizabeth Martens said, the Cresheim Valley Drive cleanup will still serve an important purpose.
"Hopefully this will be good practice for the days we spend cleaning the land," she said.