Earlier this summer, Gina Snyder and her family scored a second-hand canoe they couldn’t wait to try out.  Rowing was a dream — but portage hammered home how much we need public river access. 

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For over ten years, the EFDC has been working to bring East Falls back to our river. Before my children were born, I took a kayak ride to tour the new river landing site and to better understand the river.

Last week, my husband Dave and I took our two sons out on our “new to us” canoe.  One son wanted to fish, the other was just thrilled to be on an adventure. Dave wanted to give his new toy a whirl, and I wanted our children to experience the river, and how close-by we live.

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I also wanted to test out the river landing location, myself.  We’d been told it’s the ideal place for a boat launch on our riverfront — apparently, people are using this sloped spot already. How much do we need an official landing?

A lot!

While this spot is easily accessed from the parking area, getting a boat in the river here was a bear (as you can see above).

The ride, though, was amazing.  Our eight-year-old is a decent paddler and took us up river.  We saw turtles sunning themselves and ducks taking a paddle.  We got close to a great blue heron standing on a rock. The six-year-old caught a fish at the landing!  Too small to keep, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Coming back — not so much. Maneuvering the boat up that steep, eroded incline and then back around to the van was a daunting feat. Dave really struggled to find his footing with a canoe over his head! No video of that but suffice it to say we’ll put in somewhere a little easier next time.

We need a safe river landing and we have been planning for this! 

In 2014, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission incorporated the East Falls community design priorities (including ideas from the East Falls Reconnects to the River traffic and circulation plan) into the Lower Northwest Plan.  The Plan shows a boat landing on the river above the Falls Bridge, by the parking lot off the Schuylkill River Trail (a connecting street is also in the works).

The boat landing is the highest priority project for the East Falls Riverfront Business District, based on the planning work that went into the Lower Northwest Plan.  It is also one of the top five priority projects of the East Park Coalition.

The landing is for human-powered boats only — canoes, kayaks, paddle-boards, etc. It’ll be simple too: just a 160-foot path to the river with a basic “apron” onto the water.

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The slope for the landing will act as a retaining wall, but we don’t want it to look like one, so we’re going to use a porous material that will allow ground cover to grow through it. That’ll prevent soil erosion, too. Engineers will cut a path into the existing hillside, and then after a few years it’ll look completely naturalized.

The path itself will be asphalt to resist flood water – we need a surface that won’t be washed away (like cinders or wood chips will). At the river’s edge will be a small concrete ramp with a hard rubber surface that will lead into the water.

Of course we’ll also need “Kayak Crossing” signs along this stretch of the Schuylkill River Trail. And landscaping, maybe some new benches. Phase One is still very much in the “draft” stages — purely a conceptual design.

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At this point, we’re still consulting with stakeholders and gathering input. Next steps include meetings with Parks & Rec, and also the PA Dept of Environmental Protection — possibly the Army Corps of Engineers, too.

In addition, we’ve asked the The Delaware River Keepers to review our design so we can minimize damage and disruption to nearby trees & root systems in this “riparian zone.” River banks are sensitive ecological areas, providing habitats for ducks, fish, reptiles, birds, and multitudes of beneficial plants & bugs, too.

You can bet we’re not breaking ground until we find a construction firm that’s as “green” as possible, and sensitive to our need to protect our natural environment.

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And don’t forget — before we get a final, detailed blueprint, we’ll need input from the East Falls community, as well.  I’ll do my best to keep everyone up-t0-date on progress here and across EFDC’s social media.

Right now, I am now working on approvals and fundraising. If you’d like to help, please volunteer — or come celebrate the river with 150 of your friendliest neighbors at Castle on Tap this October 1st!

Tickets just $25, all proceeds help bring East Falls back to the river:

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Castle Ringstetten is maybe 20 yards from the new launch site — I’ll be happy to point it out for you, and invite you to review & comment on the plans so far.

Thank you for supporting growth and development in East Falls. Here’s hoping we’ll be rowing merrily along soon.