In 1988, through the efforts of the City of Philadelphia, the Fairmount Park Commission, and CCRA, the Schuylkill
River Park Community Garden was
constructed into its current form as an unprecedented gift to the city and
to our community. The meticulous planning at its inception allowed the
garden to survive with very little infrastructure maintenance for
approximately 20 years. However, visible in 2008 were signs of wear and
degradation to many areas. In 2008, the Garden Steering Committee
embarked on a large-scale effort to identify areas of the garden in need
of repair, to evaluate potential re-building strategies, to raise the
funds for these projects, and ultimately to carry out each project. In
total, nearly $42,000 was raised to carry out most of the below
The following areas were identified as potentially requiring attention:
Main Entrance Gate
Pergola at Cistern
Garden Interior Benches
Garden Exterior Benches
Parkside Plantings Fence
Cherry Trees / Interior Bed Landscaping
Each of the aforementioned items received careful inspection by Steering Committee Members and when appropriate by experts outside of the garden. The following represents our action or plans regarding each item listed above. In addition, in 2011 the Steering Committee preliminarily identified some additional projects, which we are being researched for possible action including: 1) reworking plot L1; 2) converting the cold frames into a storage shed; 3) repairing the drinking fountain; and 4) constructing accessible plots. These four items are not yet included below.
Main Entrance Gate
The main entrance gate was constructed by Greg Leavitt in 1988. Noted in 2008 were multiple rust spots that potentially impaired the long-term survival of the gate. The original sculptor was contacted and he recommended removing rust from the gate and applying a preservative product to prevent further deterioration of the sculpture.
Action: In Summer 2008, the gate was cleaned and preserved by Greg Leavitt's Staff at a break-even cost. The sealant product should be reapplied in 5 - 10 years.
Garden Interior and Exterior Lighting
Noted in 2008, almost all lights inside the garden and directly outside of it were non-functional. Additionally, several areas were identified that require supplemental lighting.
Action: In Summer 2008 we contacted Fairmount Park who repaired all existing lighting fixtures. In 2009, spotlights were added to our existing power infrastructure. We have also tried solar spotlights and may continue this experiment in the future.
Plan: We continue to evaluate and work with Fairmount Park on providing supplemental lighting to areas of the garden and to the Parkside Plantings. Our options are limited by the extant electrical capacity of the park as a whole. It is our hope that electrical capacity will be upgraded in 2011 - 2012 as part of the pedestrian bridge construction and with it all light fixtures in Schuylkill River Park.
Noted in 2008 were cracks in some of the boards above the corridor between the tool shed and the compost bins. Also noted was some degradation of the tool shed wood. The Steering Committee sought the advice of an environmental consultant and Fairmount Park regarding these issues. Both indicated that concerns were non-structural.
Action: A wood preservative was applied to the shed exterior at the Spring 2009 SRPCG Work Day. Flashing was installed to limit moisture contact in Fall 2009.
Plan: Possibly replace header in corridor, and re-evaluate structural integrity in 2014 years, with replacement planned for 2014 - 2019.
Noted in 2008 was degradation of some non-structural cross-members on top of the central pergola. As with the tool shed, an environmental consultant as well as Fairmount Park examined the structure. Both indicated that concerns were non-structural.
Plan: Re-evaluate structural integrity in 2014, with replacement planned for approximately 2016 - 2020.
Garden Interior Benches
Noted in 2008 was sagging of bench boards, a sign that structural integrity was compromised. Also noted was substantial movement of boards when force was applied.
Action: In Fall 2008, the wood on one bench was removed and replaced with new pressure treated lumber. The lumber was then additionally sealed with a product designed for freshly pressure treated wood. In early Spring 2009, the wood on five remaining benches was replaced and the bench metal was painted. We wish to extend our appreciation to Friends of Schuylkill River Park for donating the bolts used in the bench replacement process.
Plan: Replace wood on benches surrounding cistern as financial and other resources allow.
Garden Exterior Benches
Problems similar to those found on the interior benches were noted in 2008 with the benches directly in front of the main garden gate and with those benches present throughout the Parkside Plantings and the entire Park.
Action: Wood on all structurally sound park benches (including those in the Garden's Border) was replaced during Spring 2009 in coordination with Friends of Schuylkill River Park and Fairmount Park. Structurally unsound benches were removed in coordination with and on the advice of Fairmount Park.
Plan: As of 2011 - 2012, select benches will be replaced as part of the Pedestrian Bridge Construction.
Parkside Plantings Fence
As many have noted, the Parkside Plantings Fence is in a very poor state of repair. Its presence is necessary to protect our investment in the plantings from damage by the numerous dogs that frequent our park.
Action: A test Belgium Block border was installed around Parkside Plantings Bed 1 in Fall 2009 using reclaimed block from other areas of the Park. The remaining hazardous fending was removed in 2011.
Plan: Work with Friends of Schuylkill River Park and Fairmount Park to evaluate possible replacements. Tentatively, a belgium block border and iron fence are scheduled to be installed around the entire Garden's Border as part of the Pedestrian Bridge Construction in 2011 - 2012.
Cherry Trees / Interior Bed Re-Planting
Noted in 2008 and earlier was substantial bark peeling from numerous Cherry Trees, rotting of numerous limbs, and the death of two trees near the South Gate. At the Steering Committee's request, three arborists independently inspected the trees and all indicated that the trees were in poor health. Fairmount Park recommended removal of the trees and agreed to perform this removal at no cost to the garden.
Action: In Winter 2008 / 2009, Fairmount Park removed the cherry trees. The stumps resulting from this removal and from the removal of approximately every other tree in 2003 / 2004 were subsequently ground.
Plan: Continue to evaluate shade-minimal ways of utilizing and beautifing the planting beds bordering the main pathways.
Noted over the course of the past 5 years was degradation of plot boards, separation of board corners, and intrusion of boards into pathways. The Steering Committee conducted an extensive investigation of replacement options, met with representatives from other gardens to solicit their opinions, held two public meetings for current gardeners to express their views, and consulted with experts on the safety of various potential replacement materials.
Action: In Winter 2008 / 2009, two "test plots" were constructed by contractors using corner brackets from the Gardener's Supply Company and 100% recycled plastic lumber (made from products such as baby bottles and milk jugs - all BPA Free). In April 2009 we applied the remaining funds received through Representative Babette Josephs' to purchasing sufficient materials to complete several 10x10 plots with volunteer labor. Using contractor labor and additional funds as of January 1, 2011, all 40 10x10 plots have been replaced as well as a number of the larger plots. As of May 2011, the plot board replacement project is complete. Due to supply issues we replaced some plots with 2"x8" plastic and some with 2"x10" plastic. We are extremely pleased with the results and the sustainable materials used in the construction process.
We would like to acknowledge and express our deepest appreciation to the following individuals or organizations who have supported garden rebuilding projects:
First, to the many gardeners who donated to the 2008 capital campaign. You gave around $8,000 dollars in one season and a total of $10,600!
Representative Babette Josephs who facilitated a $4,000 grant to support the Garden's rebuilding efforts in 2008, a $5,000 grant in 2010/2011, and who is always an unstinting supporter of our community.
The McLean Contributionship who in July 2009 generously funded a $5,000 grant to support the Garden's Plot Board replacement project.
Senator Larry Farnese who facilitated a $10,000 grant to support the Garden's rebuilding efforts in 2010 and who has been a excellent steward of public parks in his district.
Everlast Lumber who generously offered the garden a steep discount on recycled plastic lumber for use in 2009 and 2010 and to the Plastic Lumber Yard who also provided us with discounts on product for use in 2010 and 2011.
The Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation who generously provided the Garden with $1,000 in June 2009 to support our participation in The City Harvest Program. Approximately 1/2 of these funds were allocated to The Philadelphia School for purchase of tools and other equipment related to this project and the other 1/2 were allocated to the construction of a dedicated plot for City Harvest.
Gardener's Supply Company who in Spring 2009 generously donated 26 corner brackets to the garden for use in the 2009 season and offered a 50% discount on the purchase of an additional 26 brackets. In Fall 2009, Gardeners' Supply offered a 50% discount on the purchase of an 85 additional brackets. In Spring 2011, the Gardener's Supply yet again offered a 50% discount to the Garden, which was used to purchase all brackets needed to finish the Plot Board Replacement Project.
Fairmount Park (and now the Department of Parks and Recreation), particularly our district manager Sam Curry and park executive director Mark Focht, who even with very limited budgets manage to do great things for our garden and for parks around the city.
Finally, to the Friends of Schuylkill River Park with whom we have partnered, in spirit, financially, and by sharing resources on many projects. Out of our many segments, we make up one park and by coming together we have together been able to do much good. Here's to a future ripe with collaboration and coordination and as such, a future knowing no bounds.