Wetland area coming to FDR Park

FDR Park will add a 33-acre wetland area to address regular flooding and pursue a path to a climate-resilient future.

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, along with the Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia International Airport, announced the beginning of construction on Aug. 18, which will create a native forested wetland in the southwest corner of the 348-acre park. Officials say the $30 million project will reclaim high-quality habitat in the park and reintroduce native ecosystems to the land for the first time since the park was completed in 1914.

“FDR Park is a home to so many rich Philadelphia communities, from birders and hikers, to youth athletes, cultural institutions and naturalists,” said Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. “The wetland project and Nature Phase of the Park Plan will deliver for those who love FDR Park today, while building a sustainable, resilient foundation that will allow future generations of South Philadelphia families to enjoy FDR Park for years to come.”

The new wetland area will occupy an area that was previously inaccessible to the public. A coastal forested wetland is native to the FDR Park site. It was once the primary landscape along the Delaware River watershed in South and Southwest Philadelphia.

“Returning part of FDR Park to wetland is an important step toward creating and maintaining a world-class public park that is built on the Delaware River watershed,” said Maura McCarthy, executive director, Fairmount Park Conservancy. “The wetland and creek project will make FDR Park a paradise for birds and local birdwatchers, and open up a section of the park that has been inaccessible for decades.” 

The project will take about 12-18 months. It will rebuild and enhance the riverbank areas adjacent to Shedbrook Creek, reduce flooding, and provide new opportunities to explore both creek and marshland in the park. The wetland will expand habitat for native flora and fauna and will include boardwalks for public access to view the scenic nature.

According to officials, the area will be cleared of current growth to remove invasive species. Then, 7,000 new adapted trees and 1,700 bushes and woody shrubs will be planted. Two new tide gates will be installed to prevent tidal flow to the park’s creeks and lagoons. Excavated soil will be preserved on 10.6 acres of the former golf course for future use in elevating the park above sea level. The soil will be planted with natural grasses and wildflowers. 

“A lot of work has already gone on behind the scenes to get this project to the groundbreaking stage,” said Philadelphia International Airport Division of Aviation Interim CEO Keith Brune. “We are excited for the work at FDR Park to be underway. When completed, this project will improve the park for the entire community, by removing years of debris, planting thousands of trees and shrubs, improving drainage and clearing clogged pipes.”    

The wetland creation is the first of 12 projects for the $45 million Nature Phase of FDR Park. Other upcoming projects include the restoration of Shedbrook Creek stream and riparian buffers, 23 acres of Sedge Meadow with boardwalks and overlooks, a kayak and canoe launch, Wildflower Hill, Nature Playground, Two Treehouse Woods projects including a high-quality forest and canopy structure for explorations, 5 miles of soft surface trail network with signage, a plant nursery and land care facility, a trailhead comfort station and meadow and forest restoration.