Raising city kids, I am always looking for opportunities to bring a little nature into their lives. So on a napless afternoon, I decided to take G for a walk to the Washington Avenue Green, a riverfront park at Columbus and Washington Streets. I imagined that taking a long walk would put her to sleep, but we both ended up being enthralled with the views and basked in the mid-afternoon sunshine.
If I hadn’t read about this park, I would never had known it was there as it is situated behind a Union headquarters and a Coast Guard building. After crossing Columbus Boulevard, I followed a trail of wildflowers and was amazed at how quickly the landscape changed from dirty concrete to a garden path lined with honey bees and frogs.
The park is located out on Pier 53 and has great views of the Coast Guard boats and ships docked along the Delaware River. The marshy smell and sound of the waves crashing on the bulkhead reminded me of my childhood home and were a relaxing respite from the city noise.
At the end of the pier there is a “land buoy” with a spiral staircase that goes halfway up, from which you can survey the park and gain a better view of the city skyline, Benjamin Franklin bridge, and the Washington Green. You can read more about the historical significance of this park and art installation here, but in brief, this site was an immigration station from 1873-1915.
G and I enjoyed climbing the lighthouse-like tower and feeling the fresh breeze roll off the water. The park also includes a boardwalk over the water and a small rocky beach. The pier architecture encourages exploring the local ecology and I witnessed a few children skipping rocks from the shoreline, couples stopping to photograph flowers, and bicyclists waving at offshore tugboats.
While the Spruce Street Harbor Park has been getting all the attention this summer, I was excited to find this less touristy hidden gem along the waterfront. I am excited that Philadelphia is reviving the waterfront and in this case, restoring not only a historical landmark but a natural wetland.