Monday, June 8, 2009

Christa Lewis Memorial Aboretum

In 1993, the Historical Society of Tacony began exploring the possibility of improvements in Disston Park to allow for better use of the park by the public. At this time, the park was neglected and underutilized. After some historical research and a study of current issues regarding the park, it was decided in 1994 to initiate a project to be known as "The Arboretum at Disston Park." The plan envisioned substantial improvements to this area of the park complete with new trees, benches, light fixtures, and monuments. As a way to sustain and complement these improvements, an Adopt-A-Tree Program was originated whereby friends, family, and loved ones (both in the past and present) can be memorialized.

In early May, 1996, a tragic event occurred in Tacony which had a profound impact upon Tacony. Christa Leah Lewis, a gifted young resident, lost her life in a senseless incident while attending a Carnival at Russo Park. The source of pride that Christa was to her family, school, parish, and friends, and her future accomplishments that will never be known, inspired the decision of the Historical Society of Tacony to rename the planned arboretum the "Christa Lewis Memorial Arboretum." The Arboretum Committee and the Society in general believes that Christa realized and appreciated how her talent was influenced and developed by the people in her life. What better tribute can be offered to her memory, than a lasting memorial of peace and tranquility that such an Arboretum would provide?

The Historical Society of Tacony had received a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Grant of $5000 in 1995 as "seed money" to establish the first phase of improvements. Now, with the support of the Lewis Family and the City of Philadelphia, public workshops were held between September, 1996 and March, 1997 to discuss the implementation of Phase One of the project. In April, 1997 the "Adopt-A-Park" agreement was finalized between the Department of Recreation and the Historical Society of Tacony. In addition, $7,500 of additional "seed money" was secured through a Pennsylvania Community and Economic Development Grant in 1997. The Arboretum was dedicated on October 3, 1997.

Between November, 1997 and November, 1998, stone and planting area sponsorships were being accepted for the Second Annual Dedication Ceremony. On November 7, 1998, this ceremony dedicated five additional tree sponsorship stones and the initial planting area stone at the top of the entryway from Disston Street. In addition, Councilwoman Joan Krajewski secured funds to re-surface the basketball court, install new sidewalks between Disston Street and Tyson Avenue and install a new walkway leading to the train station.

By 1999, with the help of SEPTA and State Representative Mike McGeehan, a $250,000 improvement project was executed at the Tacony Train Station. This project was completed over the summer and features a new railing and steps to Disston Street, wrought iron fencing along the rear of the park, new lighting and a Victorian style city-bound shelter. Three additional tree memorial stones and one planting area stone were dedicated at the Third Annual Dedication Ceremony on November 13, 1999.

The Historical Society of Tacony appreciates the continuing support of this project by the community and looks forward to more improvements in the future including a Victorian lighting scheme, permanent retaining wall at the entryway, and a "Trail of History" commemorating important events in Tacony's history.

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