Back in the early ’90’s, two young mothers living on Umbria Street, Colleen Long and Amy Turella, decided to tackle the steps at the bottom of Fountain Street that lead to the Manayunk Canal. At that time, the steps were overgrown with weeds, the gutters to the sewer inlets were filled with trash, the area had rodents, people were afraid to walk down the steps to get to and from the Canal or to the factories on Venice Island.
After numerous phone calls to various agencies, organizing cleanups with neighbors and getting help from some agencies like Philadelphia Green, PECO, Grainger, Philadelphia More Beautiful and others, the steps became managable. Countless number of cleanups and plantings followed. About the same time, Colleen, Amy and Sue and Blaise Syrnick and a few neighbors formed the Umbria Street Neighbors Association, which holds 2 flea markets a year at the Ivyridge Train Station. The proceeds from these flea markets help to keep the steps maintained. In the spring of 2009, with an influx of new interest and attention, the Umbria Street Neighbors were able to buy shrubs and some native plants and have them planted in the landings and sides of the steps.
With this interest and the many years of hard work by the Umbria Street Neighbors, the Steps have become a beautiful green space and safe access to the Canal.
[Eds. note: this work continues, and if you would like to be involved in cleanups and plantings of the steps, please check the Ivy Ridge Green events calendar.]