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The Rail Park opens June 14 with swings, cool new public art and more

Written by
Jared Brey

Philadelphia’s long-simmering dream of a linear park to rival New York’s High Line comes to life on June 14, when Phase 1 of the Rail Park opens to the public. Here are five reasons to look forward to it:

You can get your first peek very soon.

The Rail Park in Philadelphia is a public space built out of a former rail line.

Photograph: Mike Smith

When it’s finished, the Rail Park will comprise a three-mile stretch of unused railway line in the northern part of Center City. It’ll be completed in phases, and Michael Garden, vice chair of Friends of the Rail Park, says the first of those—a sliver of space between Broad and 11th Streets—will be ready for visitors starting June 14. This will add greenery to a section of the city that’s covered mostly in hardscape and serve as a “proof of concept” for the rest of the vision, says Garden.

The landscape design is in good hands.

The Rail Park in Philadelphia is a public space built out of a former rail line.

Photograph: Mike Smith

For Phase One, Studio Bryan Hanes—the landscape architecture firm behind such popular urban oases as Sister Cities Park and the Porch at 30th—plans to incorporate hearty trees and shrubs, in keeping with the tough industrial character of the neighborhood. “It’s going to have a real organic and self-sustaining feel, and I think people will respond well to that,” says Garden. “We’re excited to be opening in the spring when it will be blooming.”

Artists will create a new public sculpture.

The Philadelphia Art Commission approved public art for the Rail Park, which will involve telephone poles and engraved poetry. Artist Brent Wahl and poet Laynie Browne are currently fabricating the piece.

There will be swings.

The Rail Park Philadelphia will include swings

Yes, swings. In addition to heavy wooden benches and various planters, Phase One includes what Studio Bryan Hanes describes as “civic-scale” swings for sitting and, well, swinging. They’ll be placed at the east end of the space on the elevated walkway, offering a view of the street and skyline.

Friends of the Rail Park is going pro.

Up until recently, the group behind the project was an all-volunteer organization. Now with the hiring of its first executive director, Kevin Dow, Friends of the Rail Park is ready to kick fund-raising and community outreach efforts into high gear, bringing the city closer to a fully realized three-mile Rail Park.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best Philadelphia parks to visit right now

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