Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer
PLEASANT HILL - Once the Delaware River around Philadelphia was a cesspool of industrial waste. Unlike other urban rivers, it never caught fire, but along the city's banks they tell stories about those toxic days. Like the one about the plane that came to land at the airport, swooped too low over the Delaware and its wheels dissolved. Or how another low flying pilot was asphyxiated (water-quality scientist at the Delaware River Basin Commission told me these apocryphal tales). Four decades of cleanup has brought a dramatic contrast (since environmental movement brought new attention to the river and Penn, NJ, NY, and Del. joined with the federal government in the creation of the Delaware River Basin Commission in 1961). People boat, ski, and even swim now. Just since 1985, the number of boat registrations has tripled in Philadelphia, Delaware and Bucks Counties (according the bureau of boating for the Pennsylvania Fish Commission. Just for entertainment, Bob (right) and Ethel (left) Lightcap bring their lawn chairs and binoculars to the Linden Avenue boat ramp in Pleasant Hill Park on weekends and watch all the boats. The couple from Mayfair aren't one of the 6,136 city boat owners (1997 figures), ''except for one that you put in the bathtub,'' says Ethel, but they love to dream.
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A selection of images by The Inquirer's staff photographer Tom Gralish who from 1998-2001 chronicled life in the many neighborhoods in Philadelphia. The images were published in a for a weekly column. See more of Tom's work in his blog at Scene On The Road