Field Stewardship Update

Restoration // August 30, 2022

By Shawn Green, Director of Field Stewardship

Summers in the Wissahickon buzz with life and activity, from the ever-growing vegetation and flight of insects, to the huge influx in park visitors looking to escape the typical Philadelphia heat and humidity. Even with the hot and sticky heat waves, Friends of the Wissahickon was ready to steward the park in the busiest of seasons.

FOW’s Interns: Georgia (left), Stefanie (right)

This summer, we were joined by two interns from the W. B. Saul High School of Agricultural Science. The interns started their work with FOW through the Philly STEM Education for Sustainability (EfS) program with PHENND, a local network of 25+ colleges and universities that helps students to strengthen service learning, civic engagement, and community partnership in Philadelphia by connecting academics with community involvement. Among other things, Georgia and Stefanie assisted us with planting and maintaining a pollinator garden and prepping and running our Volunteer Service Days. Speaking of …

Volunteer Service Days continued to run on our usual Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday morning schedule. This season, we tackled quite a few projects, including cleanups, former planting site maintenance, trailhead beautification, trail work, and cleaning out stormwater infrastructure. Our service days are open to the public and easy to participate in. FOW provides the gloves, tools, instruction, and leadership. All you need to do is show up! Check out our events calendar to sign up for upcoming service days. 

Co-leading all our service days are FOW’s trained volunteer Crew Leaders. These amazing folks keep our volunteers engaged and safe while leading them on a variety of projects each week. On top of co-leading service days, Crew Leaders also cared for the park’s trails in small groups throughout the busy summer season. When you hike or bike on an open trail with a clear corridor, you have our Crew Leaders to thank!

This year is proving to be the biggest year yet for the support of FOW’s stewardship mission by corporate groups. This summer, we were joined by Baker Tilly, Willis Tower Watson, IPS, Boston Consulting, Victrex, Deloitte Green, and HMetrix. If your company is interested in planning a private service project to support FOW and Wissahickon Valley Park, read more here.

Our trained Trail Ambassadors were busy engaging and educating park users on a weekly basis by running outreach tables, interacting with visitors on hiking shifts, and leading popular Walks & Talks. These are free and open to the public and cover a wide range of topics related to the Wissahickon. Visit our events calendar to read more and register for an upcoming guided activity. 

The long-running Structures Crew continues to meet on Tuesday mornings to make repairs to fences, benches, and many other structures in the park. This summer, they also built three large A-frames to keep our lumber organized, repaired a broken gate on Wises Mill Road, and built several picnic tables for the Wissahickon Environmental Center and Cedars House Café. 

FOW’s Seasonal Field Team:From left to right: Max Knapich, Hannah Healy, Malcolm Jennings, Mara Dajevskis, and Sofia Sorrentino

One of the most challenging aspects of summers in the Wissahickon is encouraging more Leave No Trace practices among park visitors. FOW has been installing many signs throughout the park

designed to educate park users on how to minimize their individual impacts on this beautiful space. Even more important than signage, though, is our efforts to have real one-on-one conversations with park users in high-use areas of the park. Helping FOW achieve this goal was our Seasonal Field Crew, who worked with us from May through August. Along with assisting our field staff with day-to-day operations, the Seasonal Field Crew spent many hours in the Valley Green area, cleaning litter, engaging park visitors, and handing our trash bags. In July, FOW’s field & communications staff also took part in a two-day training with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to better equip us and our volunteer corps to educate others on  these important outdoor ethics. This continues our dedication to education, reignited by our Hot Spot weekend in 2021

FOW asks all visitors to the Wissahickon to minimize their individual impacts by adapting to Leave No Trace practices, such as carrying out their waste, staying on trails, keeping their dogs on leash, and not disturbing anything natural or historic. To ensure that we have a beautiful park in the future, we all need to do our part now to leave everything as we find it. If you’re interested in leaving the park in even better shape, join FOW for a Volunteer Service Day, or plan your own individual Wissahero cleanup! So far this year, Wissaheroes have independently removed over 1,600 pounds of trash from the Wissahickon forest and its waterways. 

Consider this your invitation to join us in taking care of this very special place!