Her organization, which focuses on the northern portion of Philadelphia’s Delaware River shoreline, has already begun construction on an 11-mile multi-use trail that will link a series of parks, but also wind through industrial and residential areas, and skirt the city’s water works and fire and police training grounds.
“We are not kicking out industry,” said Thorp, whose organization list economic revitalization as a goal. “This is a working river.”
But business and industry leaders were very wary of the trail at first, she said.
“I was very nervous,” said Ron Geller, President of Morris Iron & Steel, a scrap metal recycling company. “And the employees were very nervous about their livelihood.”
His company, located on Milnor Street, uses the Delaware to ship the scrap metal they recycle.
“There are steel mills in the Carolinas that receive scrap by barge,” he said. “We can go from here to North Carolina for $12 per ton, versus about $50 per ton by rail.” If something blocked the company’s river access, “We’d have to lay people off,” he said.
“You can’t be so tough on industry and say we want you to stay in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. You can’t say ‘we want a river walk’ and force me to go to Mexico or something like that.”
At the time he first heard of the river walk, Geller’s company was about to launch a $2 million modernization effort. “We put it on hold,” he said.
But after attending meetings and talking to Thorp, Geller said he feels much better. He went ahead with the conversion and is planning to grow his company at its current site.
“We have a commitment from them, a verbal commitment, that they will not interfere with our operations,” he said.
The details have to be worked out – Geller said perhaps the trail will need to veer away from the river at times. His company has lots of heavy equipment and large chunks of metal that could harm people who wander on the site. And he is somewhat concerned about theft.