History & Mission

Friends of the Wissahickon is a 3,000 member, non-profit organization founded in 1924 with a mission “to conserve the natural beauty and wildness of the Wissahickon Valley and stimulate public interest therein.”

FOW's Strategic Plan

Click here to read FOW’s 2018-2020 Strategic Plan.


1924 A group of concerned citizens came together to restore Wissahickon Valley Park after a winter storm destroyed over 200 trees and started Friends of the Wissahickon.

1930s FOW increased membership from 50 to 500 and raised $9,000 to plant 14,000 trees and shrubs. During the Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) invested $850,000 in the Wissahickon to build picnic shelters, guard houses, toilets, and trails.

1934 FOW raised funds for the restoration of Valley Green Inn and assumed responsibility for the Inn’s care and operation.

1964 Wissahickon Valley Park was declared a Registered Natural History Landmark (now known as National Natural Landmarks).

1970s FOW published the first Map of the Wissahickon Valley, and Wissahickon Valley Park’s trail system was named a National Recreation Trail.

1990s FOW began several of its signature outreach efforts–its quarterly newsletter, lecture series, and website. The first paid executive director was hired, and FOW acquired office space at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, with whom it launched the joint Conservation and Facade Easement Program.

2002 The William Penn Foundation awarded FOW a $280,000 “capacity building” grant, which made it possible for FOW to hire full-time professional staff, increase revenue, and undertake major projects. FOW launched a Save Our Forests fundraising effort in partnership with the Friends of Pennypack Park.

2004 Valley Green Environmental Restoration Plan was completed.

2005 FOW launched the Sustainable Trails Initiative (STI) and the Protect Our Watershed (POW) program.

2008 First class of Trail Ambassadors began working in the park.

2009 FOW began the Wissahickon Stormwater Mitigation and Sediment Reduction Project (completed in 2011).

2011 The Warming Shed at Valley Green, which burned down in 2010, was rebuilt by the Structures Crew.

2012  Completed My Park Counts, the most comprehensive park survey of the Wissahickon ever conducted, and held its first town meeting on the health of the Wissahickon Creek.

2014  FOW celebrated its 90th Anniversary with special events and extensive improvements to Valley Green Inn.

2018  FOW completes Strategic Blueprint for 2018-2020. Forbidden Drive is designated the Pennsylvania Trail of the Year by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Conservation & Restoration

FOW conserves the natural beauty and wildness of Wissahickon Valley Park. With our volunteers, we implement projects that encourage balanced regeneration of native plant and wildlife species, reduce stormwater erosion, and preserve the man-made trails, bridges, and other park structures.

  • The Sustainable Trails Initiative is a multi-stage commitment by Friends of the Wissahickon to help make the 50 miles of natural surface National Recreation Trails in Wissahickon Valley Park an environmentally and socially sustainable system that works for all park users.
  • The Protect Our Watershed program is pursuing initiatives aimed at better understanding and resolving flooding and excessive stormwater runoff that severely impact the health of the Wissahickon Creek and its tributaries.
  • Since 1996, FOW’s Structures Crew has completed countless building projects throughout the Wissahickon, with the goal of maintaining the integrity and heritage of the park.