An 1880 history of the Washington Avenue Green area described fields of reeds and an abundance of teal, plover, snipe, and woodcocks. Shortly afterward, the site became an active immigration port, and later a busy mercantile port. Shoreline was filled in, trees cut down, docks added, railroad tracks laid down and later abandoned.
Stacey Levy's 2012 design for the repurposed Washington Avenue Green makes provisions for filtering polluted stormwater through the park and plans were put in place for floating wetlands. Built into her design is a system called 'dendritic decay' — holes were drilled in the cement slabs of what had been a parking lot and vegetation was planted. The underlying moisture nourishes the plantings so that over time the cement will give way and natural vegetation will take over.
Ironically, after the the Clean Water Act of 1972 was passed, the cleaned-up Delaware River water gradually rotted the wooden piers that had long been preserved by the now-banned chemicals.
Among discoveries were some surprises: there were two species of mussel that had been pronounced extinct this far south on the Delaware, and two species of snakes. Non-native Paulownia trees dot the shoreline. The original Pier 53 was preserved and held together by non-native mulberry trees.
Development is now being done on Pier 68, a few blocks south of the Washington Avenue Pier, extending the wetlands along the river.The project is scheduled to be finished by the fall of 2015. Here is the artist's rendering.
Washington Avenue Green is part of the Atlantic Flyway and the Delaware River guides the annual migration of a multitude of species. The teal, plover, snipe, and woodcocks may be gone, but other returning species wait to be rediscovered.
Cornell University has a website that updates current bird migration patterns in the area. Click here for more information.