A partnership aimed at removing some of the ocean of pavement that surrounds too many of the living and work spaces in Philadelphia is a welcome sign of environmental progress for the city.
A groundbreaking ceremony planned for Thursday will officially kick off the second phase of the Green 2015 Action Plan, whose goal is to add 500 acres of parkland to city neighborhoods by "depaving" them.
The partnership, which includes the Philadelphia Water Department, the city Department of Parks and Recreation, the Trust for Public Land, and the Mural Arts Program, hopes to locate at least a patch of parkland — grass, trees, perhaps a few park benches — within a 10-minute walk of anywhere in the city.
The first work will occur at William Dick Elementary School and the adjacent Hank Gathers Recreation Center in North Philadelphia.
The plan, developed by city parks Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis, calls for similarly greening nine other sites by September 2013. Each site will be uniquely designed based on input from the community, and may include playground equipment and running or walking tracks.
The plan calls for the smart use of government funding already in the pipeline for land and stormwater management, with additional foundation support and cooperation from private landowners. An initial $7 million must be supplemented to expand the program annually over the next several years, DiBerardinis told the Inquirer Editorial Board.
The Water Department's role is significant. Replacing pavement with planted and porous surfaces will pay environmental dividends by reducing the polluted runoff that ends up in streams and rivers when it's not backing up into homeowners' basements.