Revitalization of the Schuylkill River: Practical Urban Riparian Restoration Options

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Revitalization of the

Tidal Schuylkill River
in Philadelphia:

An examination of practical restoration
options for a riparian ecosystem
within urban surroundings.

How Should We Restore An Urban
Riparian Ecosystem In Philadelphia?

Table of Contents

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 3

BACKGROUND AND HISTORY 4

ALTERNATIVES 5

CRITERIA 7

ANALYSIS 8

RECOMMENDATIONS 13

CONCLUSIONS 14

REFERENCES 16

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The problem of degraded rivers within an extreme urban environment is occurring in the vast majority of major cities in the United States. Restoration efforts have been attempted in a few cities, some successfully and some not. This report examines the section of the Schuylkill River that runs through Philadelphia as a case study in order to determine the most practical restoration of an urban riparian ecosystem by integration of ecological, recreational, and economical advantages. The four most practical solutions to revitalize the urban Schuylkill River are to: 1) take no action, 2) establish a nature reserve, 3) build a public park, or 4) construct a public business district. Three distinct criteria were used to analyze these four alternatives, and ultimately choose the most appropriate solution for the Tidal Schuylkill. The first criterion is economics, and involves both the construction and maintenance costs and the future financial benefits that will be brought to the community. The second factor used when examining the alternatives is the environment. Will the proposed solution benefit the existing ecosystem and foster a continuing healthy environment, or will it deteriorate the small amount of natural space present? The final criterion is the social benefits. These are defined as any non-monetary benefit that will come to the community, such as recreation amenity, linkage of neighborhoods, and public education. After thoroughly analyzing all four of the alternatives, the public park solution best achieves the delicate balance of restoration for a natural environment, while giving the most economical and social improvements for the city possible. Taking no action, while it may keep the riverside land the most ‘natural,’ does not decrease pollution or provide any utility for the community. A complete restoration of the natural system as a natural reserve may not be physically possible, or as safe as it would be in a less urbanized setting. Developing the riverside into a business district may bring in the most immediate income of money, but costs the most to construct and maintain, virtually eliminates any natural setting, and does not provide as many social benefits to the surrounding communities as does a public park. Converting the Tidal Schuylkill riverside into a public park will better the natural environment by lowering pollution and eliminating invasive plant species. Although the park may not allow for a large business area within its boundaries, it will still encourage residential and retail development around the waterfront while at the same time allowing for a green space that will be utilized as a community gathering place.

BACKGROUND AND HISTORY

At the present time, the spirit of the Tidal Schuylkill River is constrained by urban Philadelphia. The river is crossed...
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