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Gorgas Event to Help Fund Water Management Project

Officials at Gorgas Park regroup after being rejected from a Water Department grant for storm water management.

After being rejected from a $1.5 million Philadelphia Water Department grant to help solve stormwater drainage problems, the Friends of are sticking to plan B—start wrangling in additional funds while trying again next year.

The park group applied for the grant to remedy extreme damage due to stormwater. The drainage problem causes 5-to-10 inch trenches in the softball field near and contributes to an excess of runoff into the Schuylkill River.

"Every year, they come out and move earth around and level it out so ball field is playable," Friends President John Boyce said. "We're also thinking about what's going on downstream."

He added: "We want to store cisterns so (the water) doesn't go down the hill, down the street and flood Main Street (in Manayunk)."

Along with the cisterns—which are used for underground stormwater storage—the Friends want to plant native grasses and plants, add a dog park so canine owners don't use the softball field as one, add a community garden space and do some beautification.

Last January, the parks teamed up with a to draft plans on how to solve the stormwater problem as well as make the park more inviting.

Gorgas Park, Boyce said, has a history of reinventing itself.

"There was a lot of money invested at the beginning," Boyce said. "(People) took trolleys to the park, and they would make a day of it around 1893. Those were the golden years."

But the park went into a decline post World War II, he said.

"What happened was the city got poorer and poorer and Gorgas Park became a dump," he said, adding that it was notoriously known as Pill Hill. "That was until the Friends of Gorgas."

Boyce said the Friends formed in the 1990s and began cleaning up the park. In the beginning, grants were plentiful. But now, they're few and far between.

"That happened in our first 10 years," Boyce said. "In the last five years, we haven't had that much investment in the park."

That's why Boyce said Gorgas Park is more than due for a face lift.

Overall, Boyce said, the planning only costs an estimated $30,000. But the Friends decided to ask for more on the chance that they actually receive the money.

Jackie Merchant, Friends member who drafted the grant, said the Water Department was splitting up about $10 million to applicants. The Friends plan on meeting with the department to find out where their grant went wrong so they can redraft a more effective one for next year.

Until then, the Friends of Gorgas Park said it'll attempt to gain additional funds.

The first step is the Party at the Park event with hors d'oeuvres, wine and beer, live music and a silent auction.

The event is set for Sept. 15 from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets will be $40 and Boyce said community members can get their tickets at any park event, , on the Friends' website or at . (People may also donate through the website—$25 minimum donation),

But Boyce said the event isn't just to raise funds.

"This is an opportunity for people to say 'Hey, this is our park," he said. "Let's celebrate it."

Editor's note: An earlier version incorrectly listed the event price and has since been corrected.

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