Giving thanks for the Wissahickon.
By Ruffian Tittmann, FOW Executive Director
As we come to the end of this challenging year, I hope you and your loved ones are well – and I also hope that you have been able to find peace throughout the year in the tranquility of the Wissahickon Valley Park. This year has been one of unprecedented need for green space, and throughout it the park has given so much to us, from clean air and water to a place to exercise, socialize, and take solace.
But at the same time as more friends and neighbors are visiting the Wissahickon than ever before, the pandemic has significantly impacted FOW’s ability to hold large volunteer cleanups. In normal times, we also rely on our three seasonal field crew members to help us respond to the pressure of increased trail usage and extreme weather events during the summer: their work to assist FOW’s improvement projects and park cleanups, as well as educate park visitors on Leave No Trace principles is critical to keeping Wissahickon Valley Park a sustainable and accessible place for everyone. In 2020, we were unable to hire our seasonal field staff due to COVID-19 – and this year the park saw both vastly increased numbers of visitors and extensive flooding and damage from Tropical Storm Isaias.
2017’s seasonal field crew worked to re-route the Summit Avenue Trail, contributing to a more sustainable Wissahickon Valley Park.
We’re still working to address the impacts of this past year in the Wissahickon, but we have to start preparing for a new normal. We have every reason to expect similar levels of park visitorship in 2021, and supporting so many new park users will require double the number of seasonal field crew for next year, as well as expanding their work period from June-August to May-September. We’re working tirelessly to conserve the park, but we can’t do it alone.
I want to ask you: this Giving Tuesday, can you give back to the Wissahickon and double the impact we can make in the Wissahickon Valley Park?
By giving back this Giving Tuesday, you can help improve the park experience for all who visit the Wissahickon in 2021. Your support will ensure that this amazing space can keep giving back to you, too – as well as the entire community of park visitors, volunteers, and friends who rely on the Wissahickon Valley Park for recreation, clean air and water, and more. With your generosity, we will be able to conserve this community treasure for all.
2018’s seasonal field crew in outreach mode. Pictured: Cheyenne Beaver, Julia Raskin, Amari Brawner
And the positive impact you make this Giving Tuesday doesn’t stop in 2021. Our outreach to first-time visitors has inspired many devoted Friends of the Wissahickon who we can rely on in future to help us take care of the park. For the many of the members of our seasonal field crew, working with FOW has been an important experience that brought them into conservation work full-time – and you’ll be responsible for six new leaders in the field. The difference you make by giving now will continue to support the conservation of the Wissahickon in ways we can’t even imagine, for generations to come.
This year, I hope you’ll join me in giving thanks for the Wissahickon, and supporting Wissahickon Valley Park.
Stay safe, stay well.
Ruffian Tittmann, FOW Executive Director