Parks & Rec makes major repairs after Hurricane Ida

By Darren Fava, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

When bad floods happen to good places, Parks & Rec’s staff and partners swing into action!

Cyclist on the boardwalk portion of the Manayunk Canal Towpath after clean-up efforts were completed on October 16. Photo by Joseph O’Connor, copyright Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.

On September 1 and 2 remnants of Hurricane Ida swept across Philadelphia. The storm’s winds caused damage to many street and park trees. But the heavy rains north of the city created a much bigger problem.

Philadelphia is the end of the line for several major creeks and rivers. Intense rainfall upstream caused extra water to converge on our densely built city. Creeks and rivers here overflowed their banks. That’s one of the reasons our largest parks were created. They protect areas where creeks and rivers flow—and where they merge together. For example:

These parks provide space for the floodwaters to go. But when big storms like Ida happen, it means a big mess is left behind.

Hurricane Ida left a significant amount of damage to parks and recreation sites. Here’s an update on the storm cleanup efforts at parks and recreation sites across the city:

Trail restoration

  • Manayunk Canal Tow PathThis trail was one of the most heavily damaged. It was the only one that we needed to close for repairs. Flooding washing away major portions of the path and railings. Our staff completed repair work on October 16.
  • Schuylkill River Trail in Schuylkill River Park and East Fairmount Park—Our staff and partners cleared large debris and made trails accessible by Friday, September 3.
  • Pennypack Park TrailThis multi-use path trail was blocked with many downed trees. Our staff cleared the path by Wednesday, September 8.
  • Wissahickon Valley ParkSeven miles of trails and some parking lots were damaged. Sections of the and rail fencing was also destroyed. Repairs were completed by partners and staff.
Images showing the damage done to the Manayunk Canal Towpath. Parks & Rec had to close the trail to repair eroded areas and remove fallen trees. We also had to remove thick muck left behind by the floodwaters. Photos provided by Robert Armstrong.

River banks

  • Removed debris deposited at sites along the river including:
    • Piles of debris from people’s backyards and homes.
    • Logs as big as trees.
    • A dock swept away from upstream.
    • Construction equipment.
    • Two vehicles in the Wissahickon Creek and one vehicle in the Manayunk canal.
  • Cleaned one to two inches of muck and silt from paved surfaces.
  • Making plans to restore streambanks that were heavily damaged by the storm.

Special projects

  • Schuylkill River Safety Cable at the Fairmount Dam—The storm damaged a safety cable that runs across the river near Boathouse Row. This cable helps rowers avoid going over the Fairmount Dam above the Water Works. The cable has been removed and will be replaced soon.
  • Dell Music Center— Replaced 116 seats in the outdoor amphitheater destroyed during the storm. Repairs were complete in the same week. This ensured seating for a sold-out concert of 5,000 people.
  • Markward Playground—The recreation building and playground were overcome with floodwaters. Programs were relocated to nearby sites. The site remains closed for deep cleaning and repair.

Tree removal

  • Cleared and recycled dozens of park and street trees downed by the storm’s winds.

We couldn’t have done it without…

The clean-up work is ongoing. It represents an incredible effort from Parks & Rec staff and partners. These include:

  • Tree crews, arborists, and inspectors.
  • Grounds maintenance workers.
  • Equipment operators.
  • Park Managers who worked overnight at the Emergency Operations Center. They recorded emergency calls and coordinated with other departments, including PECO.
  • The staff at Markward Playground, Venice Island, Lloyd Hall, and all the other sites affected by Hurricane Ida.

Parks & Rec sends special thanks to the Office of Emergency Management, the Streets Department, and the Managing Director’s Office.

Finally, thanks to our great partners and volunteer-led groups who helped clean-up our sites, including:


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