RICHARD FRIZELL, president of the Holmesburg Civic Association, stood in the picnic area at Pennypack Creek Bridge and watched sadly as a Parks & Recreation truck drove along the wooded bike path on the opposite side of the creek.
"We could stand here all day and watch Parks & Rec trucks working the other side of the creek," he said. "But this side is just not on their wavelength."
Frizell wants to know why the creekside picnic area along Frankford Avenue near Solly, which is used by hundreds of neighborhood residents on weekends, is ignored by the city agency that's supposed to maintain it.
A gigantic dead tree dominates one bank of the creek, as it has since Superstorm Sandy flung it there last fall.
Frizell stood on the low retaining wall that was built decades ago to keep Pennypack Creek from overflowing and eroding the bank.
But the overflowing creek has eroded the bank so often that huge exposed boulders line the shore.
If Parks & Rec built a proper retaining wall and restored the bank, Frizell said, people could walk along the water, enjoying a natural treasure in an urban neighborhood.
Frizell pointed to the picnic grounds' only trash can. "One trash can for a picnic area of 30 acres that is used by hundreds of people," he said. "Do you think Parks & Rec could put out a few more trash cans?"
The picnic area's pavilion has been boarded up since Frizell started working in the neighborhood in 1980 (he's lived there since 2007).
Until last year, it sheltered homeless people, prostitutes and addicts. "The park was scary dangerous," Frizell said. "People were sticking needles in their arms in broad daylight."
He said 8th District police did a good job of moving vagrants and drug users out of the picnic grounds, and patrolling regularly, but because Parks & Rec never installed lighting, the park still feels too dangerous to use at night.
Frizell said two massive park cleanups led by the Holmesburg Civic Association, the Friends of Pennypack Park and the Emmanuel-Resurrection Episcopal Church attracted a crowd of volunteers. "But we can't do this ourselves," Frizell said.
He said he has reached out to Parks & Rec Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis, but he's been stonewalled.
Contacted by the Daily News, DiBerardinis apologized for not responding to Frizell and promised to put more trash cans on the picnic grounds and install anti-littering signs.
He said a Parks & Rec technician would examine the feasibility of restoring the creek bank and building a retaining wall — an expensive project for the cash-strapped department.
DiBerardinis also promised to investigate whether lighting the picnic area and reopening the pavilion is a realistic possibility.
"Most of this stuff makes sense to me to either try to do or at least look into," DiBerardinis said.