Wandering the idyllic wooded trails of Wissinoming Park, any visitor would not be surprised to learn the revamped green space is achieving local, state, and national accolades for its stormwater management features.

Wissinoming Park's green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) recently received a 2022 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence—one of 15 projects recognized by The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Greater & Greener participants scan the QR code on PWD signage to learn more about the park's GSI.

And, it was a spectacular spotlight of the City Parks Alliance’s national Greater & Greener conference in June.

Wissinoming Park is a crown jewel of Green City, Clean Waters, as the park now manages more than 39 Greened Acres (a Greened Acre manages just over 27,000 gallons of runoff during a one-inch rainstorm!)

Using a sloping wetland and underground storage, the park, located in Lower Northeast Philly, diverts more than 43 million gallons of stormwater on an annual basis. This system reduces sewer overflows that pollute local waterways, particularly the Delaware Watershed—a major drinking source for the city.

History of the Site + Current Stormwater Management

The park was once part of the estate of pioneer photographer and chemist Robert Cornelius during the 19th Century. Cornelius collected trees from across the world and planted them on his property, and some of those trees can still be found in the park.

Flashforward more than a century later to 2012, when PWD joined a coalition of partners determined to renovate the park. The team included Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Councilmember Bobby Henon, Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez, the Fairmount Park Conservancy, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. The green upgrades would complement a comprehensive effort to spruce up the park with new playgrounds, spraygrounds, and ADA accessibility.

"Partnerships are essential to the success of Green City, Clean Waters. We work with Parks and Recreation to not only manage stormwater in parks but also enhance the user experience,” says PWD City Planner Amy Liu. “Over the past 10--plus years, PWD and Parks and Recreation have established a robust 'GSI in Parks' program, which includes project protocols, innovative funding strategies and communication structures unique to Philadelphia. Other cities look to Philadelphia as the leader in beautifying parks with GSI to meet Clean Water Act mandates."

One of several rain gardens at the park.

The first phase was completed in 2017, adding a new playground and two rain gardens. The second phase, finished in 2021, created a large system of rain gardens, an underground storage basin under the athletic fields, and wetland areas along the edge of the park. The design also integrated an existing historic creek that once ran through the park.

Integrating a creative component, Mural Arts Philadelphia collaborated with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia to contribute a vibrant mural, titled Cultivate Respect, on the Wissinoming Playground building.

For PWD, public engagement was a key element of the design process. Like all of our GSI developments, community feedback was considered as project proposals were refined.

“PWD’s outreach process around these types of projects is comprehensive,” says Dan Schupsky of the Public Engagement Team. “We are always actively working on pairing customer messaging with each phase of the project to keep the community well-informed and to communicate effectively. The Public Engagement Team takes great pride in meeting residents where they are, helping green neighborhoods and protect local waterways, and getting to know the community through our project-based outreach.”

Wissinoming Park's wetlands.

Before the completion of Phase 2, Wissinoming Park’s GSI was recognized as “Best of Green City, Clean Waters - Public Projects” by the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia in spring of 2021.

This past spring, our GSI Unit employees and members of the Wissinoming Park Neighborhood Community planted 40 trees across the new wetlands of Wissinoming as part of the new installation. The trees contribute to the environmental benefits of the green infrastructure, cooling the park with shade and providing homes for native wildlife, such as birds and squirrels.

National Recognition

PWD staff guide Greater & Greener participants through the park's wetlands.

In mid-June, our GSI staff led a tour of Wissinoming Park and Carmella Playground for the Greater & Greener conference that was held in Philadelphia. Attracting hundreds of environmentalists, this biennial event “explores how urban parks can be designed, developed, programmed, funded, and sustained to meet the challenges facing 21st-century cities.”

Wissinoming Park's multi-phased journey through project design, perpetual maintenance, and partnership collaborations typified the conference’s themes.

Part of the Pioneering Plants, Participation and Partnerships: Stormwater Management for a Greener Future mobile workshop, PWD staff guided more than 30 conference-goers from around the country as they experienced firsthand the innovative infrastructure of Green City, Clean Waters.

“Getting the chance to share lessons learned with national leaders in parks is both a great showcase for us and a reminder about the first-in-class partnerships and projects that we are supporting,” says PWD Outreach Specialist Danielle Stollak.

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