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Where We Live | Northeast Philadelphia





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Posted on Wed, Nov. 17, 2004
 
 I M A G E S 
Park ranger Michael Hargraves rides his horse, Sam, along a Pennypack Park trail after his shift. Hargraves, 37, boards his horse nearby. The park’s history can be traced to the Leni-Lenape Indians. Photographs by Laurence Kesterson.
Park ranger Michael Hargraves rides his horse, Sam, along a Pennypack Park trail after his shift. Hargraves, 37, boards his horse nearby. The park’s history can be traced to the Leni-Lenape Indians. Photographs by Laurence Kesterson.
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Historic Pennypack Park: An oasis for all seasons




Inquirer Staff Writer

When you think of the Northeast, you may think of traffic congestion, rowhouses and malls. But amid the hustle and bustle, there is an oasis.

Pennypack Park, the green heart of the Northeast, meanders roughly eight miles from the Delaware River northwest to Montgomery County.

Its bike, horse and foot trails are accessible from some of the busiest streets in Philadelphia - Roosevelt Boulevard, Bustleton Avenue, Frankford Avenue and Rhawn Street among them.

In a region with some of the city's most dangerous intersections, the park offers a more welcome pace. Its 1,600 acres of woodlands, meadows and wetlands are inviting at any time of year.

In fall, hiking is a favorite pastime, with colorful leaves reflected off Pennypack Creek. Common wildlife sightings include deer, squirrels and chipmunks. The park also is home to turtles, toads and snakes.

In winter, a glistening white carpet welcomes hikers after a snowfall. The winter months are the best times to spot birds in barren branches or at feeding stations near the environmental center. Sightings can include woodpeckers and flickers in trees, herons and mallards in the creek, and geese and kingfishers near the water.

In spring, wildflowers bloom along the paved bike trail, and flowering trees wave on nearby hills. Anglers come out of hibernation when trout season opens in April, filling the creek's banks.

In summer, the park is full of activity, with bikers, picnickers, and those just looking for a quiet spot to rest or read a book. The summer concert series, which features an eclectic mix of big bands, high school bands and singer-songwriters, draws crowds to the bandshell near Welsh Road and Cresco Street on Wednesday nights.

Throughout the year, the Pennypack Environmental Center on Verree Road offers educational and recreational programs, including hikes, workshops, talks and programs for children.

The recorded history of the park site can be traced to the Leni-Lenape Indians, who hunted and fished on the land and are believed to have given the creek its name. There are several theories on the translation of Pennypack, one of which is "slow-moving, bear-fat creek," according to Pete Kurtz, environmental education program specialist for the Fairmount Park Commission.

In 1683, William Penn acquired the title to the land from the Leni-Lenape. The Pennypack Valley grew in population and became a center of industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with grist mills and factories along the creek. Remnants of these mills and mill races are along the creek banks.

Among the park's historic structures are the Frankford Avenue Bridge in Holmesburg. Built in 1697 at the request of Penn, it is the oldest stone arch bridge still in use in the United States.

Around 1800, the park was believed to be frequented by Alexander Wilson, the father of American ornithology, and noted wildlife painter John James Audubon.

The park was established by the city in 1905 and is maintained as part of the Fairmount Park system.

Helping to preserve the park is the Friends of Pennypack Park, an independent civic organization. The group holds monthly cleanups and a recycling program, in conjunction with Lincoln High School, that benefits the park.


Contact staff writer Gina Esposito at 215-854-2432 or gesposito@phillynews.com.

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