Michael Catania walks on a rocky beach at Petty's Island. He picks up a flat stone and flings it out into the Delaware River. The stone skips a few times toward a shipping terminal and the church steeples of Philadelphia's Port Richmond neighborhood.
"I feel like a little boy when I come here," said Catania, chairman of the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust.
Wooden stakes protrude from the ground. The remains of an old pier line the perimeter of the beach. Plastic bottles, old tires, a TV, and bricks sliced in half — one side "key," the other "stone," litter the shoreline.
If everything goes as planned, in about five years, the rocky beach will become a part of a network of hiking trails that will traverse the island. Petty's Island will be transformed from an industrial wasteland into a nature preserve — an urban oasis with forested areas on either end, grasslands, ponds and an education center.
Listen to and read the full version of this report at Keystone Crossroads' website. Keystone Crossroads is a new statewide public media initiative reporting on the challenges facing Pennsylvania's cities. WPSU is a participating station.