After two hot hours of picking up trash, weed-whacking, and sweeping at a vacant lot in Point Breeze, PowerCorps PHL's Desmon Richardson, on hand with fellow crew members to bring some added muscle to the effort, suggested lining the small, triangular space with unused rocks from a pile sitting in the middle of the site.
Neighbors who'd been helping agreed: the natural-looking border was the perfect finishing touch for the renewed lot, concluding a sticky Saturday morning spent cleaning up the local eyesore.
Members of the Philadelphia Water Department's Public Engagement team joined the local non-profit Diversified Community Services and area block captains on June 10 to clean the publicly-owned lot at Point Breeze Avenue and Mifflin Street--the future home of a rain garden that will soak up stormwater and bring regular maintenance to the site through Philadelphia's Green City, Clean Waters program.
That was clear as nearly 20 Point Breeze residents--including block captains Denise Lewis and Sheila Love—volunteered their Saturday, working alongside PWD to rid the triangle of trash and debris that might otherwise make its way into the Schuylkill River. More community events are planned for the site soon.
Adding some block party flair, the recent cleanup was energized by music, potted-plant decorating, snacks and excited conversations about the site's future rain garden. Volunteers put their craftsmanship skills to use too, painting and erecting a series of wooden birds that showcase the coming natural habitat that will be created with the rain garden:
Huge thank you to the Point Breeze residents who came out for today's vacant lot cleanup! Soon, this space will be a community asset that helps protect Philly's waterways. Check out the before & after!
The colorful installation was created through the Public Workshop, a community-building organization working with PWD in classrooms at the nearby McDaniel Elementary School to get students thinking about how this lot can benefit the neighborhood now and in the future as a green stormwater site.
Other residents joined Mural Arts in painting water-themed flower pots to take home. Filled with bright-pink flowers that will bloom all summer long, the artistic planters act as reminders of future blooms the rain garden will bring. For the PowerCorps PHL crew, the day of work was business as usual: the group trains Philadelphia residents ages 18-26 for jobs working in the growing green stormwater infrastructure maintenance field.
Green City, Clean Waters improvements planned for Point Breeze also include a vacant lot located at Ringgold Street and South Morris Street. In addition to rain gardens, the two sites will use green tools including tree trenches, a stormwater bumpout and an infiltration trench to capture and filter stormwater runoff from streets and sidewalks.
Together, these green tools will soak up more than 23,300 gallons of stormwater during each 1-inch storm, preventing more than a million gallons of polluted water from entering the nearby Schuylkill River over the course of a typical year of Philly weather.
Residents who missed the cleanup and block party have another chance to join the fun and pitch in: PWD will be back on Thursday, June 29 to host a Public Workshop Community Build Activities where residents will construct decorative benches and signs to go in the new neighborhood green space.