From the Director’s Notebook: Learning to Leave No Trace

Events // July 21, 2021

By Ruffian Tittmann, FOW Executive Director

Dear Friends,

Did you know that Wissahickon Valley Park is a National Natural Landmark? In 1964, the park received this title from the National Parks Service as part of the National Natural Landmarks program, which recognizes and encourages the conservation of sites that contain outstanding biological and geological resources. Its designation notes that “the Wissahickon Valley is a symbol of natural area preservation within a vast urban complex.”

I was reminded of this as we prepare to host this weekend’s 2021 Leave No Trace Hot Spot in Wissahickon Valley Park, from Friday, July 23 to Sunday, July 25. In 2019, thanks to a nomination by FOW Trail Ambassador Tom Rickards, Wissahickon Valley Park received a Hot Spot designation from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics,  a national organization that protects the outdoors by teaching people how to enjoy it responsibly. Hot Spots are areas determined by the Center as suffering from severe human-related impacts but with the potential to thrive again through new conservation and education practices – such as the Leave No Trace Seven Principles – and the Wissahickon joins Hot Spots in some of the country’s most significant parks, including Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming and Joshua Tree National Park in California. 

It’s exciting that Wissahickon Valley Park is again being recognized on the same level as these well-known and well-loved parks – and that our community is recognizing that its popularity extends far beyond Philadelphia’s city limits. With more than a million annual visitors, we manage a host of challenges from human impacts every year, including trash, dog waste, trail erosion and damage to vegetation, threatening long-term ecological damage and regular user conflict. I see this summer’s Hot Spot as an opportunity to learn together as a community about what works nationally to reduce these impacts, and how to speak to these issues so that everyone who visits the Wissahickon becomes invested in the conservation of this unique urban green space. It’s also a chance to listen to our friends, neighbors, and partners about what they want for the future of Wissahickon Valley Park, and incorporate their ideas into the conservation process. 

Thanks to our wonderful partners at Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and Leave No Trace, we have a full schedule of educational workshops, volunteer service projects, guided walks and fun and engaging community events. I hope you will join in the conversation this weekend about how we can better conserve this landmark park for generations to come!

Find a schedule of Hot Spot events at