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Officials break ground for Benjamin Rush State Park improvements
They all were there. Community gardeners, radio-controlled airplane operators, civic association members. Even a generous scattering of park passers-by. All drawn by a pending announcement that major changes were coming to a state park all hold close to their hearts.

Bureau of State Parks Director David Kemmerer did not disappoint.

Monday he joined other state officials and Philadelphia representatives breaking ground for a $4.7 million improvement project at Benjamin Rush State Park in Northeast Philadelphia.

“This park prides itself in encouraging community involvement, and these far-reaching improvements announced today are being undertaken with these dedicated Benjamin Rush State Park supporters in mind,” Kemmerer told the gathering. “Civic groups, gardening and radio-controlled airplane flying enthusiasts, and other day-use visitors all should be delighted by what we are beginning here today.”

Throughout his 38 years of service with the Bureau of State Parks, Kemmerer said the value of volunteers and park-user groups has continued to shine through when managers seek input on park direction, resources and programs.

“I’ve seen the value of community involvement,” Kemmerer said. “The best parks have the most interested, willing-to-get involved visitors. And Benjamin Rush is no exception. Many of these groups are represented here today and I’d like to recognize their strong support and involvement.

‘“Thank you,’ Friends of Poquessing, Somerton Civic Association, Parkwood Civic Association, Benjamin Rush Garden Association, and the North East Philadelphia Radio Control Club.”

Financed through capital budget funds, improvements to the 276-acre park will include: construction of a new park entrance; parking improvements; a new trail, comfort station and information kiosks; sanitary sewer and water line installation; garden hose connections; electrical service, meadow establishment; storm-water controls; new signage; and landscaping.

Kemmerer was joined at Monday’s groundbreaking by state Sen. Michael Stack, state Rep. Brendan Boyle, and Philadelphia Councilman Brian O’Neill.

“Parks are an important element in every community. That is why it is so important that we improve and maintain our city's sole state park so that Philadelphians can continue to enjoy it for years to come," said Sen. Stack. “After a decade of negotiations and planning, I'm pleased that we're breaking ground on a project that will make Benjamin Rush State Park a more accessible and enjoyable destination for everyone.”

Civic and park-user groups joined DCNR representatives and other state officials in breaking ground for a $4.7 million improvement project at Benjamin Rush State Park in Northeast Philadelphia. From left are: Angelo Tata, president, North East Philadelphia Radio Control Club; Michael Hatala, president, Parkwood Civic Association; Lynda Mahler, coordinator/president, Benjamin Rush Garden Association; state Sen. Michael Stack; state Rep. Mark Cohen; state Rep. Brendan Boyle; Philadelphia Councilman Brian O’Neill; Bureau of State Parks Director David Kemmerer; and Benjamin Rush State Park Manager Eric Ihlein.

Named in honor of acclaimed psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence and attendee at the Continental Congress, the park is home to one of the state’s largest community gardens. Created 35 years ago, it is Philadelphia’s only state park and adjoins Bucks County.

Comprised largely of woodlots and rolling fields, the park is frequented by employees and residents of the nearby Delaware Valley Veterans Home, off Southampton Road.

Construction is expected to begin at the end of November and last into spring 2013. Work will necessitate closing park grounds east of Roosevelt Boulevard but not affect the park’s soccer fields. Grounds to be closed will be posted.

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November 21, 2012

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