Lazaretto Lazaretto
Source: Delaware County Times
Date: April 9, 2004
Byline: Editorial

Editorial: Ideas flowing for waterfront activities

Long ago when Lenni Lenape Indians first settled on the shores of what would eventually become Delaware County, it was the river and its many tributaries that made it an attractive place to live. The Delaware River was a source of food, water and transportation for Native Americans and the settlers who would follow from Europe and Scandinavia. William Penn arrived in Pennsylvania via the Delaware River, first docking on the Chester shores in 1682, launching a Holy Experiment that would set the mood for America as a melting pot of races and creeds. At the turn of the century, businessmen tapped into the value of the river as a source of transportation, virtually occluding it from public access with the erection of refineries and other industrial edifices.

Some boaters still saw it as a source of recreation, but the air and water pollution that came with industry pretty much robbed most Delaware County residents of their river.

Chester Economic Redevelopment Authority Executive Director David N. Sciocchetti would like to return the river to the residents of Delaware County.

On Wednesday he met with Delaware County Councilwoman Linda Cartisano and several community leaders and municipal planning and marketing strategists at the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce to discuss a festival that would involve the 14-mile Delaware County waterfront.

"The Delaware River has been pretty much forgotten as a recreational resource because for the longest time you couldn't get to it. We had an industrial base that ran along the waterfont for 200 years that was the backbone of our economy. That's long gone and we're left with an underutilized asset in the Delaware River," said Sciocchetti.

Among the ideas that were bandied about were a boat parade, sailboat races, a charity 5K run, fireworks and a party at a waterfront night club.

As they continue to brainstorm, the planners need to take into account the interests and backgrounds of the community-at-large, if they want the event to be a success.

Music, art, food and culture need to be a part of the festival as proven by the success of similar events at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia.

With Delaware County's rich ethnic history, it shouldn't be hard for planners to find resources that would make the festival a truly colorful and entertaining event. Expanding on William Penn's melting pot theme seems a natural for such an affair.

There have been small celebrations and events in recent years at various sites along the river including Memorial Park in Marcus Hook and Gov. Printz Park in Tinicum.

There have been re-enactments of Penn's landing in the area of Front and Fulton streets on Chester Water Authority property in Chester.

In October 1982, a 300th anniversary marker designating "Where Pennsylvania Began" was dedicated at Penn's Landing Park at Second and Penn streets in Chester.

In June of the same year there was a two-day festival dubbed "Celebrate Chester," organized by then-Youth in Action President Tommie Lee Jones, among others.

Local hospitals, the Chester Art Guild and about 30 other community and church groups contributed to the event that included pictures, antiques, even recipes from Chester's past. Veteran crew members of the World War II heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Chester, were in attendance at the event that also included an exhibit called "A Town of Townhouses: Chester's Style of Living."

Historic structures should also be incorporated into the proposed waterfront festival including Lazaretto, the Georgian building in the Essington section of Tinicum named after St. Lazarus. It was opened in 1800 as a quarantine hospital and evolved to a resort and then a seaplane base before becoming vacant.

While some would like to see a waterfront festival take place by Labor Day, Brandywine Conference and Visitors' Bureau Director Tore Fiore is more realistic in his assessment of this great undertaking.

"Can we pull it off in five or six months? I don't have the answer to that. But can we have a great program set by next summer? Absolutely," said Fiore.

If such an event is to put Delaware County's waterfront back on the map, we believe it best to take the time to do it right. To rush it without using all the rich human resources available in Delaware County would narrow the festival's appeal and make it seem half-baked.