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Big Green Block

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Coming to a ‘Hood Near You: Get Schooled on Green Tools

A sign at the Big Green Block in East Kensignton explains how some of the local green tools work. Credit: Brian Rademaekers, Philadelphia Water
A sign at the Big Green Block in East Kensignton explains how some of the local green tools work. Credit: Brian Rademaekers, Philadelphia Water
Philly is about to soak up some serious green IQ.
Patches of green all over the city – we’re talking 36 locations in 18 neighborhoods – will soon be home to vibrant, colorful signs distilling the concepts behind Philadelphia Water’s green tools with attention-grabbing diagrams and simple descriptions. The signs, the first in the U.S. to explain a city’s green infrastructure system, give the inside scoop on seven types of green infrastructure we commonly use and will be in places ranging from high profile spots like the Philadelphia Zoo to stormwater tree trenches that seamlessly blend into city blocks.
These colorful new neighborhood features tell the curious some important things about Green City, Clean Waters, America’s biggest green stormwater initiative:
Why We Need Green Tools. Our sewer and stormwater system struggles to handle wastewater and rain during heavy storms, when we can have too much of both. An overwhelmed system can put polluted water into our rivers and streams. Green tools provide a smart, cost-effective solution to this problem.
How Green Tools Work. Green tools combat pollution by using plants, soil and stone to filter out bad stuff (up to 80 percent of pollutants!) and keep too much stormwater from overwhelming the sewer system. Just like they do in nature, these living landscapes capture excess water and use it to sustain plants before slowly filtering it into the ground.
What Am I Seeing? Terms like “bumpout,” “tree trench” and “porous pavement” aren’t exactly part of our everyday language (yet!) and many of the tools we use have important features hidden from view. These signs explain the type of green tool in front of you and use diagrams to visually cut below the earth. Now, you get a peek at the important things you normally can’t see below the surface.
You Can Help, Too. Each sign has important info and tips for those who care about our water, with suggestions about car care, planting street trees, and what types of products are better choices for the environment.
Learning More Is Easy. Signs have basic web addresses as well as special “QR Codes” using smartphone tech to let people snap a picture and access videos with in-depth explanations of the specific green tool in front of them.
The signs will be going up at the following locations in June, with more to follow next month: 
800 Block of Percy Street, Bella Vista
27th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Logan Square
Trenton Avenue and Norris Street, East Kensington
Julian Abele Park, 22nd St. at Montrose, SW Center City
Nebinger School, 601 Carpenter St., Bella Vista
Greenfield School, 2200 Chestnut St., Rittenhouse
Herron Playground, 250 Reed St., Pennsport
Queen Lane, between Fox Street and Henry Avenue, East Falls 
Shepard Rec Center, 5700 Haverford Ave., Haddington
Philadelphia Zoo, 3400 W. Girard Ave., East Parkside
Bodine High School, 1101 N. 4th St., Northern Liberties
Longstreth William School, 5700 Willows Ave., Kingsessing
6000-6134 Lancaster Ave., Overbrook
Daroff Samuel School, 5630 Vine St., Haddington
Venice Island, Lock and Main streets, Manayunk
If you’re out in the neighborhood or spending some time downtown, keep an eye out for these new signs. They’re hard to miss, and we guarantee you’ll walk away with a few extra points added to your green IQ!
Want a sneak peek? Check out photos from Northern Liberties and The Big Green Block here
Green City, Clean Waters Signage

Want to keep up on Green City, Clean Waters news and events and learn more about sustainability at Philadelphia Water? Click here and sign up for our monthly newsletter now!   

China and Japan Visit Philadelphia's Green Infrastructure

Philadelphia’s stormwater management and stream restoration projects reached international ears this month! On September 17th government representatives from Beijing toured the Big Green Block in the Kensington/Fishtown area and two days later members of the Japanese Ecosystem Conservation Society visited Wises Mill in Andorra and the Bells Mill tributary to Wissahickon Park.

Beijing Delegation

The Beijing delegation included 20 officials representing ten  of the sixteen Beijing provinces, led by the mayor of the Pinggu district in Beijing. Officials from the China Association of Mayors and the China Center for International Economic Exchange accompanied the group. Following a presentation by the Philadelphia Water Department about Green City, Clean Waters, the delegation  set off to the Big Green Block to learn about the projects from community partners. PWD engineer, Evan Wilbert, also explained how stormwater tree trenches, rain gardens, porous pavement and the green roofs on Kensington CAPA high-school help manage stormwater runoff. This project embodies the spirit of public-private partnerships  and helped provide the Beijing delegation with ideas on how multiple entities can come together to create a high-impact, sustainable project.

Ecosystem Conservation Society

On Thursday, September 19th, members of the Japanese Ecosystem Conservation Society toured Wises Mill and Bells Mill. The Japanese representatives were on a national tour of inspiring environmental programs and they made Philadelphia their first stop! Both sites are major projects for PWD as Wises Mill is a model stormwater wetland and Bells Mill exemplifies natural stream restoration. After a presentation by PWD staff, the Friends of Wissahickon staff shared insight on the importance of non-profits, fund-raising and public-private partnerships and the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation staff provided information about the local flora and the history of Fairmount Park.

Both groups enjoyed their tours and learned a lot about our green infrastructure projects. To see more pictures from these events, check out the slideshow below!

Big Green Block: Phase II Complete!

Philadelphia zip code 19125, known for the community’s dedication to sustainability, will celebrate the latest improvements to  the Big Green Block on Saturday, July 20th with an official ribbon cutting event. The Big Green Block is a large collaborative project between the New Kensington CDC, the Philadelphia Water Department, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Mural Arts Program.The first phase of theproject turned the Kensington School of Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) into a ‘green’ hub, becoming the first high school in the country to earn LEED platinum certification. Along with the school, Shissler Recreation Center has ball fields, a basketball court, tree trenches and rain gardens, all managing stormwater runoff and pollution. Additionally, phase two of the project has enhanced the site with a new spray park, dog park and more!

On July 20th From 11 a.m. to noon, the New Kensington CDC will honor and celebrate the collaboration with public tours of the site. If you are interested in learning about how you can manage stormwater at your own home, arrive early for a rain barrel workshop, hosted by the Climate and Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP), at 9 a.m. Meet for all at the Shissler Recreation Center, 1800 Blair Street. Note, the rain date for this event is July 21st.

For any questions or concerns, please contact Diana at NKCDC, 215-427-0350 x104 or

Shissler Spray Park Welcomes Its First Guests

Giggles and screams filled the Shissler Recreation Center playground last Thursday. Soaking wet children ran up and down the pavement between beds of ornamental grasses and repurposed mill stones; some, still in their graduation gowns. Thursday May 23rd was a day of celebration for the parents and children of Shissler’s 2013 pre-school graduation. After a long ceremony of singing, dancing and pictures, the students raced out to the playground for the ribbon cutting of Shissler Spray Park. Tentative at first, the children eventually ran in and out of the ground sprinklers, splashing and playing together on the hot May day. 

The spray park, a joint initiative between Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Mural Arts program, became an official part of ‘The Big Green Block’ in Kensington. The Big Green Block, located just off the Berks El station, is named for all of the environmental features of the area – including the LEED certified Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) and PWD green stormwater infrastructure tools (stormwatertree trenches, rain gardens and more). The New Kensington Community Development Corporation (CDC) has further plans to re-do the basketball courts at the neighboring Shissler Recreation Center.Learn more about the creation of Kensington’s big green block here.

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