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Turn Spring Garden into a green boulevard

Wouldn't it be fun to safely ride your bike or take a leisurely walk on a tree-studded path from the banks of the Delaware to the Schuylkill.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Planning Council, a statewide organization with regional offices that work to revitalize communities, protect working farms, preserve critical wildlife habitat, and protect lakes, streams, and rivers, is working its way through an extensive process to come up with a plan, including a budget and funding sources that could turn Spring Garden into a greenway that serves as a link on an urban trail stretching from Canada to Key West.

In some ways, the plan could bring Spring Garden Street back to its 19th-century days as an "elegant, leafy boulevard," according to PEC's project website at Working with the city and neighborhood groups, the council hopes to report its ideas in the summer.

PEC executive vice president Patrick Starr says Spring Garden — a straight 2.2 mile shot between the Art Museum and the Delaware River waterfront — acts as a barrier that cuts off the energy from Center City and from the neighborhoods on the north side.

The street is wide enough to accommodate cars, walkers, and cyclists. But right now, cyclists and motorists find themselves dodging each other. Planners envision a center lane for strollers and bikers separated from traffic, which would give users some peace of mind. Of course, this is a plan and can change. But the element of safe passage for all users should make it to the final draft.

Beyond dressing up with more trees, Spring Garden Street can also perform a practical purpose as a place to manage and contain storm water, says Starr.

The city is sprucing up the Delaware riverfront and has plans to develop the old incinerator site at the foot of Spring Garden Street.

At the same time, some residents of the lofts on the east side of Broad Street are excited about a proposal to turn the Reading viaduct into a park like New York City's High Line.

A dedicated bike and pedestrian path would create a stronger link between Spring Garden's neighborhoods and all the walking, cycling, rowing, and running that goes on along the Schuylkill.

It enhances the quality of life not just for those in motion but for those who appreciate bustling street life as well.