Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Walnut Hill Community Park

As I walk to campus everyday, I pass the Walnut Hill Farm and Community Park.  Walnut Hill Farm is a quarter-acre plot of land just off the Market-Frankford subway line in west Philadelphia.  It was leased from SEPTA by the Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation in 2010. What was once a lot used to park equipment working on the elevated train, is now a fully sustainable community farm.  This is an interesting piece of green public space because it sits alongside the El.  The park was originally created as a sitting park for residents to use as a place of relaxation.  This year, it was updated to include tables and chairs which coexist with the already-established community garden and farm.  There are also many native trees and flowers that have been kept in tact in the garden.  

In researching the park, I discovered how effective it is as a 'green' space.  The streetlights are solar-powered, the creation of the park helped to save a severely eroded part of the land, and the park and greenhouse are irrogated with run-off from the 46th street El station.  The community and The Enterprise Center were able to work with Septa to redirect the station's downspout in order to harvest rain water.  The water collects in a cistern and then goes through a cleansing process and eventually ends in the Septa-owned lot of the garden.   I also discovered that a group of Drexel students worked on an engineering project to make the park more sustainable.  They were given a grant to bring these design projects to life.  Below are the three projects as described on Drexel's site.

"One team created a low-pressure system of piping and drip tape that transports water from the farm’s solar-powered cistern to the individual beds. The system can now irrigate the entire farm at the twist of a knob and it also conserves water in comparison to using a garden hose.

The second team designed a tool to make it easier for volunteers to till the soil in the elevated planting beds. The students came up with a wood-framed machine that uses “L” brackets as tilling spikes and strategically placed bicycle wheels to propel it along the 50-foot beds.

A third group designed a greenhouse, which will help to extend the growing season. The schematics call for a combination of Mylar plastic sheeting and water barrels to create an enclosure that can maintain a constant temperature. The designs have been given to the CDC for future construction."

Pictured below are the original sketches of the park done by the Community Design Collaborative.  As you can see, they have created a separation of garden space and relaxation space.

Personally, the garden provides me with a feeling of safety.  The new streetlights that illuminate the area at night and the addition of 2 blue light security checkpoints create a well-lit, homey space.  Since the renovations were completed this September, I find myself purposefully walking home past the park so that I can appreciate a beautiful piece of greenery on my commute.  I also use this garden as a source of fresh produce.  Every Friday, members of the Walnut Hill Growers Cooperative sell the produce that has been harvested in the garden at the Walnut Hill Community Farm Stand.  All of the proceeds go back into the farm.  


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