The Reading Viaduct Rail Park is an ambitious project spanning three miles winding through Philadelphia’s Callowhill and North Chinatown neighborhoods. Supported by a partnership between the Center City District Foundation and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the park recently opened a partial section to much fanfare. It’s one piece of a larger vision to convert abandoned railway paths into lively destination spaces for city residents and visitors.
On a hot and sunny day in June, nearly 30 members of Impact100 Philadelphia took a private tour of the Rail Park. Our tour guides, Executive Director Kevin Dow, and board member Melissa Kim, shared the history behind the project while leading our group along the park’s three main sections. We heard details about old once-thriving structures, and former railroad companies that brought freight and passengers into the city back when Philadelphia was an industrial powerhouse. As we strolled by dilapidated tunnels and weed-strewn lots we learned how the Rail Park aims to be a catalyst to revitalize these blighted areas with attractive walkways, open spaces and event programming. The tour ended at Phase One, a newly-opened quarter-mile stretch featuring plants, trees, seating and swings.
The effect of just this single swath is striking. The urban oasis is already buzzing with energy. Walking along the elevated gravel path you get a different perspective on your surroundings. The juxtaposition of nature amid architecture enables you to envision the potential of the full project. Similar to New York City’s High Line, the Rail Park holds the capacity to rejuvenate and connect disparate neighborhoods.
The Rail Park continues to raise money to fund its completion. For more information, and to find out how you can get involved, visit https://therailpark.org/.
After the tour we headed to Kismet Cowork for refreshments and a presentation by Matt Rader, president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Perhaps best known as the force behind the Philadelphia Flower Show, this organization makes neighborhoods greener, cleaner, healthier and safer through a multitude of projects such as community gardens, vacant lot landscaping and City Harvest. We also heard about Roots to Re-Entry, which helps ex-offenders leaving the prison system to find gainful employment through a program that provides training in green industry skills and workforce literacy.
Matt noted that much of the work of PHS would not be possible without the generosity and passion of thousands of volunteers and donors throughout the region who enable their many programs to flourish and grow. Summer is one the busiest times for volunteering with PHS; for information on the organization and to learn about upcoming volunteer events visit the PHS website.
The event concluded with an Impact100 information session. If you’re interested in joining our philanthropic group of women dedicated to funding high-impact grants visit the Impact100 Philadelphia site.