The Power of Partnership: FOW and PowerCorpsPHL

Conservation // November 30, 2022

Since 2013, FOW has partnered with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to keep the upper trails clear of fallen trees through the Volunteer Sawyers, a small subset of FOW’s volunteer Crew Leaders with specialized skills and training. More frequent and heavier storms, combined with increased foot traffic and invasive pests, are weakening trees and making them fall. As a tree falls, it sometimes will take part of its root system with it, causing the loss of valuable forest soils. With so many large, aging canopy trees in the Wissahickon, when they fall it’s always a big job to remove them.

Seventy trees and limbs have come down since January, blocking trails and overwhelming crew capacity. By spring, FOW Field Coordinator Varian Bosch decided it was time to call in reinforcements, which came through a new partnership with PowerCorpsPHL.

PowerCorpsPHL provides a paid service-based workforce development experience for disconnected young adults and returning citizens ages 18 to 30; the program is powered by a collaboration between AmeriCorps, the City of Philadelphia and EducationWorks. The organization works exclusively within the Philadelphia city limits. Their service involves natural lands restoration, urban beautification, green stormwater infrastructure and other areas of environmental stewardship. Upon successful completion of the Foundations portion of the program, members are eligible to apply to join a PowerCorpsPHL fellowship in areas such as Urban Forestry, Solar, Masonry, Park Ranger and Green Stormwater Infrastructure.

The most recent crew of three PowerCorpsPHL Urban Forestry Academy Fellows started their fellowship cohort on August 1, 2022. Equipped with chain saws, the Fellows have provided much-needed extra hands to break up and clear nearly three quarters of the fallen logs off the trails. The work with PowerCorpsPHL will continue through the end of November and resume in March 2023.

Until this year, none of the Fellows working with FOW had ever spent time in the Wissahickon, according to Michael Cappon, the organization’s Assistant Director of Industry Training.

“This experience has given the Fellows a chance to perform real work using the chain saws they’ve practiced with along with valuable exposure to the concept of trail erosion and the meaning of trail work,” said Michael.

But to Varian, their presence has meant even more.

“It’s been fun teaching a new generation of stewards who are really interested in learning this field,” said Varian, who has not only helped the Fellows hone their skill with chain saws and other tools but added trail maintenance and conservation, even plant identification, to this outdoor classroom. “I never saw myself as a teacher, but they’re so receptive that it’s been great helping them learn from their mistakes and offering them the tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years.”