In a corner of Philly’s Juniata Park neighborhood, beyond the rowhouses and aging factories, sits an unexpected wilderness. It’s made up of Tookany Creek Park, the grounds of Friends Hospital, three cemeteries, a municipal golf course and a smattering of surreally bucolic country estates. The incongruously rural pocket of Philly, an oasis sandwiched between the Roosevelt Boulevard and gritty Kensington, was easily forgotten by city officials. Until now.
In April, the Department of Parks and Recreation installed a new length of paved recreational trail. And this week, officials held a public meeting to plan a new phase of the trail that would link it with the Delaware River.
“The idea is to introduce legitimate users and provide a pathway for people to walk and jog in order to get them down into the park,” says Mark Focht, first deputy commissioner at the Department of Parks and Recreation. “By introducing positive uses in any place, you begin to minimize and reduce the negative uses.”
So far, Myoung Soo Kim is not pleased. Kim runs the secluded Fishers Glen Driving Range off Fishers Lane, a winding dead-end road the city mostly sealed off after a string of grisly car accidents. His property, which he says was an active farm until 1994, is encircled by the park and golf course. He says the parkland has brought him nothing but trouble.
“I’ve had quite a few problems [with teenagers]. … The kids do not respect anything. Maybe two and a half weeks ago, there was a police car here and they were looking around with a flashlight for two kids. They asked me if I’d seen them, and what they were saying is that it was armed robbery,” said Kim.
“One time, one of them shot my doggie with a paintball gun.”
Kim is, in his way, a reflection of the wild seclusion of the area. He keeps four Jindos and one Pungsan, both Korean hunting dogs, on the land around his pro shop. Kim started working for the previous owner of the range, whom he says he found by flipping through “the Korean Yellow Pages” (which isn’t a euphemism but an actual phone directory for Korean business owners) as a freelance golf teacher. Now, Kim owns the driving range and runs it by himself.
The new trail could be a boon for his business, but Kim is skeptical. In past years, visitors haven’t brought much good here. The remains of ritualistic animal sacrifices and even human remains were repeatedly reported in the area.
“There was ATV activity, there was short-dumping,” agrees Focht. “There has been some abandonment of automobiles, where people took cars into certain sections of the park to be stripped and chopped, and then burned.”
It’s that kind of activity that the Parks Department wants to stop. Kim hopes it will work, but isn’t counting on it.
“Those guys who planned this think if there’s enough traffic running around here, it’s going to be like citizens policing themselves: Lots of good guys running around here and the bad guys are going to be not around as much,” he says. “That’s not happening yet. In the meantime, with the new trails, there are more kids running around.”
This article was corrected to reflect the fact that last week's meeting was for an extension of the Tacony trail along Frankford Creek, and not a new connector under Roosevelt Boulevard, as previously reported.
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