Thursday, November 13, 2014

Schuylkill Banks (Urban Hike)

Pierce Park skateboard daredevils  with Philadelphia Art Museum in background
Kali and I have walked the "natural areas" within easy striking distance of our house so many times we decided we needed a change of scenery.  So, last Sunday (November 9), I proposed an urban walk though central Philadelphia.  When I reminded Kali we could stop for a gelato midway through the walk, she was hooked.  (I got a double with grapefruit and dark chocolate, and Kali got chocolate and pistachio, by the way).

While I like our urban walks in general (I love to go downtown), I had an ulterior motive for this trek (other than gelato).  The city of Philadelphia is gradually constructing a recreational pathway alongside the Schuylkill River (the city's "western" river, as opposed to the much larger Delaware that flows along the city's east side).  The recreational path and associated green space is called the Schuylkill Banks and it is immensely popular with walkers, runners, bicyclists,  skaters, and skateboarders.

The easy parts of the trail have been built, but the city ran into a dilemma where a set of freight railroad tracks was located very close to the edge of the river.  The city's solution for continuing the trail in this location was to build the trail out into the river on concrete pylons anchored into the bedrock below the silt.  Because the Schuylkill is subject to flooding and bears lots of flood-borne debris, the structure had to be very sturdy but also aesthetically pleasing.  I think that the city and its design team succeeded masterfully.  The trail surface is poured concrete etched to look like wooden planks. 
Kali about to enter the over-water section of the trail
Detail of one of the handsome granite entrance posts to the over-water section
Another entrance post detail
The over-water trail at river level
The trail currently/temporarily ends at the South Street Bridge (yes, that South Street made famous in the pop song).  There were literally hordes of people on the bridge taking pictures very similar to the one below.  I had to jostle to the railing to get a shot.  The over-water section of the trail has only been open for about a month, so it's still drawing plenty of touristas - including Kali and me.  The view below filled me with civic pride and gratitude that we're living near a vibrant, exciting city.
View of the over-water trail and Philadelphia from the South Street Bridge
After we walked the Schuylkill Banks, we headed into the city for our gelato fix.  Our route back to our car took us past the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which has added a considerable number of contemporary sculptures to its grounds.  The piece on the left in the image below is called Symbiosis, and depicts (in gleaming stainless steel) a broken tree that has crashed into and is partially supported by a smaller neighboring tree.
Symbiosis (left) and another structure whose title I didn't notice


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

What a superb, though presumably rather expensive, solution to the problem. I take it that if a real tree were to keel over like the sculpture then the health and safety people would soon be cutting it down.

packrat said...

Great post, Scott! That new section of trail is so cool, and your penultimate photo of it is excellent. I love "Symbiosis." That is a wonderful sculpture. (Best gelato we've ever had was when my wife and I were in Sorrento in 2003.:)

Scott said...

John: I'm sure, when the trail opened, that the newspapers reported on the cost of the over-water trail, but I don't recall the figure. I'm sure it was in the millions of dollars. And, yes, such a "hanger" would most assuredly be cut down if it were near a trail or sidewalk; I'd have to do it in my natural area preserve, too, or I'd be liable for a suit if someone were hurt and I was aware of the dangerous situation.

Scott said...

Thanks, Packrat. I thought that the new trail was pretty cool, too. I'm sure that our Philadelphia gelato cannot compare with the "real thing" in Sorrento, but the family that makes it here is Italian.

The stuff's pretty expensive; it's a good thing we don't live anywhere close to one of the gelaterias in Center City!

robin andrea said...

This is such a great view of Philadelphia. I love their efforts to have a walking-hiking-biking trail in the city. So beautifully done. And, I love knowing that so many people come out and use this trail. Great artwork there too!

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: I can understand why the bridge site was mobbed by picture-takers, because the view of the city really is great, isn't it? I'm going to sound like a boor here, because I don't exactly understand why a realistic sculpture of a cracked tree supported by a smaller realistic sculpture of a tree is "art," but I do like the sculpture and Kali and I spent quite a few minutes gazing at (and enjoying) it.

Scott said...

A follow-up to the post: I learned today that the over-water trail (which can't be more than 0.25-mile long, cost $17 million to build. It had better withstand flooding!

Mark P said...

I kind of agree on the tree sculpture. I have trouble seeing it as art, but I really like it.

Scott said...

Great minds think alike, Mark!