From The Director’s Notebook: Every Day is Earth Day
By Ruffian Tittmann
Rain, snow, or shine – and even during a pandemic – concern for the environment and the impacts of climate change is a constant priority for Friends of the Wissahickon. On a typical day, our work includes advancing capital projects to manage stormwater and restore habitat, preserving green open space with conservation easements, and engaging our community in a one-of-a-kind green space. And we also strive to be a voice for the Wissahickon watershed and everyone who relies on it, joining our watershed partners in City Hall and Harrisburg to advocate for policies to protect the health of our environment.
But all of our work is rooted at home, in conserving a community resource that nearly 1.1 million people use each year: the Wissahickon Valley Park. Because it is so beloved by so many, what each of us can do as friends of the Wissahickon to live in better harmony with the land, water, and wildlife of the park has never been more important. Individually, we each have the power to help conserve its fragile urban forest and habitat and prevent contamination of our water supply. What can you do?
Keep it Clean
All those ice cream wrappers and water bottles (even discarded mattresses!) add up. The impact of trash goes deeper than sight and smell – literally. Water carries everything downhill… and pollution, especially from single-use plastic water bottles, bags, and straws, and Styrofoam food containers, gets carried into the Wissahickon Creek. This litter ultimately makes its way into the ocean, creating huge floating trash islands and poisoning animals that mistakenly consume this waste. So please be sure to carry out what you carry into the park, and don’t throw trash out of car windows or into stormwater drains.
It may not seem like a stormwater problem, but dog waste that’s not properly disposed is a source of pollution that can add up to big problems. It doesn’t decompose and adds harmful bacteria to the Wissahickon Creek, which affects water quality and the health of both humans and habitat. After your dog goes, so should the waste. Wrap it up and carry it out!
And speaking of dogs, please remember to leash yours. Dogs off-leash disturb the many ground nesting birds and mammals in the Wissahickon Valley Park and can scare or injure runners, bikers, and riders as well as their horses.
Stay on Trail
The best place to be on a hike or ride in the Wissahickon is always directly on-trail to protect the surrounding habitat. FOW works to improve the park’s trails so that they are sustainable, easy to maintain, and minimize impact on the species that call the park home – but that means straying off them can damage native plants that have taken years to grow and disturb animals living in the cover. Repeated off-trail use can create rogue trails that are unsafe and contribute to erosion.
Be a Clean Water Advocate
Stay on top of local water-related issues. Voice your support with elected officials who have positive influence over policies that affect our watershed, and vote on relevant election ballot initiatives and referendums. Follow FOW on social media @FOWissahickon for the latest park news and information on how you can get involved.
Want to take action today? We need your support for Philadelphia Parks & Recreation! Last year, even as park visitorship increased by 50%, the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department (PPR) took a 20% budget cut – $12.5 million dollars. Now, the proposed 2021 budget only gives parks $7 million back – $5.5 million less than in 2019.
We support the Philadelphia Parks Alliance campaign to ask the Mayor and City Council to reinstate $12.5 million to the PPR budget this year – clean and cared for green spaces, food for Philly families, and open public pools this summer depend on it. Use this link to email your elected officials!
Membership dollars help FOW create a sustainable trail network in the Wissahickon Valley Park, protect the fragile forest habitat, improve the water quality of the creek, and enhance the user experience throughout the park.
Whether it’s through FOW’s Wissahero program for individual stewardship or in small group cleanups, extra hands are always needed and appreciated. You can sign up for one of our upcoming stewardship days at fow.org/volunteering.
Establishing good personal habits comes with commitment, practice, and repetition until they become routine – but leads to big changes in the long term. Think of caring for the health of the Wissahickon in the same way. A weekend spent volunteering with FOW can turn into a lifelong relationship with environmental stewardship. A pledge to Leave No Trace might inspire you to change a local leader’s mind on a new green project at a public meeting.
There are so many simple ways you can make a big difference in the Wissahickon and beyond, this Earth Day and every day. Let’s work together to make our park and planet a better place.
Happy Earth Day,
FOW Executive Director