We’re excited to announce that Philadelphia International Airport will be transforming 33 acres of FDR Park’s southwest corner into a new wetland. This restored native tidal wetland will provide important wildlife habitat, increase biodiversity, and improve the park’s flooding issues.
FDR Park suffers from frequent flooding, even after a mild rain, due to low-lying land, poor drainage, and a broken tide gate. The FDR Park Plan is designed to address this regular flooding as we face a hotter, wetter future from climate change. This is the first time in Philadelphia that a park plan has incorporated climate change projections and a comprehensive hydrology study, alongside extensive community engagement, with the goal of establishing a resilient park to be enjoyed for generations to come.
During the planning process, the airport conducted a hydrology study that looked at the entire 348-acre park and identified the southwest corner of the park as the most appropriate location for a restored wetland. This southwest corner is currently inaccessible to the public and was historically the low point of FDR Park, however a buildup of soil and debris in recent decades has been clogging the natural flow and drainage of water throughout the park.
By excavating decades of accumulated soil, we will restore that natural low point, improve water flow, and expand the park’s capacity to soak up and manage water. This project will also include the repair of the malfunctioning tide gate. The tide gate allows the park to drain at low tide and keeps the Naval Reserve Basin from flowing back into the park at high tide.
The clean soil excavated to create this high quality wetland habitat will be relocated to a section of the former golf course. This temporary soil hill will be used in later phases to raise low-lying parts of the park and minimize flooding. The first areas to be raised will be the “Picnic and Play Phase.” This Phase includes a playground, tennis and basketball courts, and five multi-purpose fields.
To create the wetland and excavate the soil, the land will first be cleared of current growth – a process called grubbing. The grubbing will remove decades of overgrowth by invasive species, followed by planting native wetland species including 7,000 new trees and 1,700 new shrubs. Once established, the wetland will increase biodiversity, improve water quality, and become an ideal habitat for fish and amphibians as well as birds, such as Great Blue Herons, warblers, and egrets.
August 2022 – Groundbreaking will begin
September 2022 – PHL will clear and excavate sections of the future wetland
Spring 2023 – Native wetland plantings begin! More than 7,000 trees and 1,700 shrubs will be planted to get things started.
Spring 2025 – Wetland construction completed
The wetland is the third major project to begin construction through the FDR Park Plan, along with the future Welcome Center and Anna C. Verna Playground. The wetland is also the first of 12 projects in implementation of the Nature Phase of the FDR Park Plan.
Want to learn more about the FDR Park Plan? Click here.