The Cities of Philadelphia and Camden look very different when viewed from their rivers. Indeed, from the earliest days of their founding right through to the mid-twentieth century, this is how they were predominantly seen and experienced. Continuing the earlier traditions of the native Lenape, the new settlements and new economies were then organized around and towards the Cooper, Delaware, and Schuylkill Rivers, as well as their smaller tributaries. The neighborhoods and communities of Philadelphia and Camden developed organically along and towards these rivers.
From out on the water, the historical stages of the cities themselves—their infrastructure, commerce, social history, modes of recreation, and even environmental challenges—can still be seen along the various waterfronts, revealing much of the evolution of our civic lives over time. With this perspective, our cities’ neighborhoods and communities come together—for the rivers run through them all as they join together and flow towards the Delaware Bay, out to the Atlantic Ocean, and connect us to ports all over the globe.
The inspiration and illumination resulting from experiences out on the waters can then open citizens’ eyes to new possibilities in terms of education, economics, society, and the environment.
Fortunately, the rivers, unlike many of the properties that line the riverbanks, remain a public
resource, open to all—but only if there are appropriate access points, infrastructure, and expertise to enable citizens to safely experience them. The On the Water Consortium is committed to realizing this vision.
With the support of the William Penn Foundation, six existing programs run by nonprofits in Philadelphia and Camden have come together to advance this vision. Each program already engages in youth boat-building, on-water trekking, community boating, and watershed studies, and we are creating a regional, on the water “trails” network that builds on each program’s individual neighborhood initiatives. This Resource Guide provides an introduction to this Consortium, and especially to the activities of each of its member organizations.
Meg Sharp Walton
Glen Foerd on the Delaware
Independence Seaport Museum
Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory
Click to learn more:
On the Water Consortium: OTWConsortium.org
Gamal D. Sherif
James P. Lewis
On the Water Consortium website is made possible through the support of the William Penn Foundation.