winter at Washington Avenue Green park

Formerly known as Pier 53, Washington Avenue Green is located at Washington Avenue, just south of the Coast Guard station and behind the Sheet Metal Workers’ Union Hall, 1301 South Columbus Boulevard. The one-acre site on the long-abandoned pier is one of the few tracts along the Delaware riverfront that is owned by the City of Philadelphia. It is the first of the public parks to be created by the Action Plan for the Central Delaware. Because there has been no commercial activity at that location for decades, the pier that originally had welcomed ships and freight carriers has deteriorated, and both native and non-native trees and plants took hold and flourished.

Pier 53 at dusk

The rotted piers and eroded shoreline have become a nursery for migrating fish and a permanent home for several species of mussels.

This newly discovered habitat is being exploited and informs the park’s unique spirit. Delaware Avenue Green has been redesigned and reconstructed as a public space on the interim trail that is planned for the southern section of the Central Delaware. The Park and the trail is open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week.

New trees and plants supplanting existing growth were planted shortly before the park was officially dedicated on October 27, 2010.

On November 15, 2012 about 50 people attended the first public input session on the future of Pier 53 at the Southwark House, 101 Ellsworth Street, Philadelphia. Participants used sticky notes to post ideas on posters that showed various possibilities. They wanted to be able to touch the water; they wanted an arbor or other structure that helps bring attention to the park, and they wanted a walking trail that leads to prime viewing spots, nature tours, and a place to fish.

The waterfront has been described as 'the retreating glacier of Philadelphia's industrial past'.

presenters of Pier 53 planPier 53 —Plan 2: On September 6, 2012, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) awarded a $1.5 million contract for the design and building of a new Pier 53 park to Applied Ecological Services, Inc. (AES) — a national firm with local offices in Conshohocken.

AES and its subcontractors' work will focus on a plan that extends the park onto the pier itself.

This extension out into the water could be partly, or entirely, above the actual pier, on independent supports, similar to a boardwalk. When the pier was built, workers constructed wooden walls out as far as they could, and put fill inside the walls. Outside that box, piles were dug into the riverbed to hold the structure.

Here's the link with the full information:

The AES contract is being paid for with a mix of DRWC capital funds and grants from the William Penn Foundation, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Federal Coastal Zone Management Program.

All photos by Susan McAninley

Under the Central Delaware Master Plan, the area between Pier 53 and Pier 70 to the south would include mixed-use developments. The Pier 53/Washington Avenue Green area would be the northernmost element in a string of wetland parks that would stretch south to Pier 68 behind the WalMart. Pier 68 and the path connecting Washington Avenue Green will be joined by a trail and series of pocket parks. This plan is in beginning stages.

In October, 2013, a $50 million grant from the William Penn Foundation will provide funding to extend the Park path to the south and improve access from Delaware Avenue. It will also extend the wetlands and provide fishing opportunities, Click here for the whole story.

Mayor at groundbreaking cermony

On October 31, 2013 at 11 am, there was a groundbreaking ceremony. Most of the park will be closed to the public as construction begins on the renovation of Pier 53. Completion is expected in June of 2014.See our News page on this site.

There will be a presentation of the Pier 53 Project celebrating the immigrants and their descendants. Details here.