Inquirer Editorial: Bridging the gaps on safety and recreation

Dedication of the new bridge at Schuylkill River Park on Oct. 20, 2012. Here, David Bershad, 8, of Philadelphia, grins as he is one of the first to walk across the bridge. APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer
Dedication of the new bridge at Schuylkill River Park on Oct. 20, 2012. Here, David Bershad, 8, of Philadelphia, grins as he is one of the first to walk across the bridge. APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer
Posted: October 24, 2012

For years, joggers, walkers, cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts have had a tough time reaching Schuylkill River Park. Not any more.

A 680-foot pedestrian bridge now connects the park to the riverfront trail known as Schuylkill Banks in Center City.

The safe passageway should give users some peace of mind, in that they no longer have to put themselves in harm's way to ride their bikes or head out for a hike. That is, no more dodging freight trains or crossing CSX railroad tracks to get to the popular waterfront spot at 25th and Spruce Streets, where thousands flock daily.

Built only with federal dollars, the $5.6 million Schuylkill River Parks Connector Bridge at Locust took 15 months to complete. The legal path to last Saturday's dedication was even longer. There was plenty of opposition from park users and pet owners who were concerned that the bridge would compromise a dog park.

The city was forced to build the steel bridge after CSX sued, saying the park's two street-level entrances were unsafe because they forced visitors to cross its tracks to reach the trail.

CSX had tried to fix the potentially dangerous situation by fencing off the right-of-way, entirely cutting off the trail. Eventually, a compromise was reached that made more sense.

Along with adding the bridge, the project included an expansion of the dog park and improvements to the park, with lights, a lawn, and repaving.

Safe access to the Schuylkill Banks provides a strong link to nearby neighborhoods, and boosts plans in progress to make the waterfront a more thriving recreational attraction.

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