The City of Philadelphia Division of Aviation plans to break ground on a 33-acre Wetlands Mitigation Development Project at a site located within FDR Park in South Philadelphia in August 2022. This site is approximately 3.5 miles from Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). The Wetland Mitigation Development Project has been planned and designed to compensate for wetlands and waterway impacts anticipated from the development of the West Cargo Project at PHL.
The Division of Aviation began preliminary analysis on the feasibility of creating wetlands at FDR Park in 2016. In 2019, the City of Philadelphia Department of Parks & Recreation (PPR) and the Fairmount Park Conservancy (FPC) announced the $250 million FDR Park Plan, which represents a vision for FDR Park that balances nature, water, and recreation by creating a more conducive habitat for native species and a pleasant experience for park goers. The Airport’s Wetlands Mitigation Development Project has been incorporated into the FDR Park Plan’s “Ecological Core,” and represents the first project of the Nature Phase of the plan.
"A lot of work has already gone on behind the scenes to get this project to the groundbreaking stage," said Division of Aviation Interim CEO Keith Brune. "We are excited for the work at FDR Park to be underway. When completed, this project will improve the park for the entire community, by removing years of debris, planting thousands of trees and shrubs, improving drainage and clearing clogged pipes."
The location within FDR Park for the wetlands development is currently mostly inaccessible due to decades of fill placement, overgrowth of vegetation, including areas of dense Phragmites, or common reed. This project will result in converting this area into a high-quality forested tidal wetlands complex.
"We are excited to partner with PHL to reintroduce native wetland habitats to FDR Park," said Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. "The Nature Phase of the Park Plan will deliver for those who love FDR Park today, while building a sustainable, resilient foundation that will allow future generations of South Philadelphia families to enjoy FDR Park for years to come."
The airport’s Wetland Mitigation Development Project features the following key components:
- Wetlands: This project will create a freshwater tidal wetland complex dominated by tidally influenced coastalplain forest with a network of sinuous tidal guts fringed with freshwater tidal marsh. This wetland will expandhabitat for native flora and fauna, while limiting invasive plants.
- Tidal Connectivity/Stormwater Improvements: Two new tide gates will be installed at the park, replacing asingle aging, malfunctioning tide gate located at the Naval Reserve Basin as part of the stormwater systemimprovements of this project. These new tide gates will improve access for regular maintenance and promotemore efficient drainage on-site. A trash rack will also be installed at the Naval Reserve Basin, that in combinationwith the new tide gates, will eliminate debris from clogging the piping system. The water supporting the tidalwetlands is brought to the site via this existing culvert piping network from the Naval Reserve Basin to FDR Park.
- Soil Hill: The new wetlands require significant excavation to remove decades of accumulated soil and fill, debrisand other materials. Suitable excavated materials will be preserved onsite to the north of the wetlands complexat a location chosen to avoid historical features, areas with archeological concerns and constraints, and areaswith environmental features such as wetlands and waterways. The hill will be planted with natural grasses andwill be incorporated into the existing trails upon stabilization.
- Provisions for future features by others, including 15-to 25-foot-wide corridors or unimproved trails and a 30-foot-wide corridor for a potential future park road.
Environmental controls will be in place to protect threatened and endangered species (such as Northern Redbelly Cooter turtles). The project also includes the excavation and relocation of up to 300,000 cubic yards of material within the park, removing unsuitable materials and debris (as necessary) and planting approximately 7,000 trees and 1,700 shrubs along with other seeding and planting efforts.
The project cost is approximately $30 million, funded primarily by the Division of Aviation, with an additional $1 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2025.