Meet FOW’s Seasonal Field Crew!

Conservation // June 16, 2021

When you’re visiting the Wissahickon this summer, remember to stop by and say hi to FOW’s Seasonal Field Crew! This year, our expanded seasonal field crew of five will be assisting with park cleanups and service days and educating members of the public on Leave No Trace principles.

The 2021 crew brings a wide variety of skills, experiences and interests to stewarding the Wissahickon. “My experience working in nature conservation started in 2001 when I was volunteering for the Darby Creek Valley Association, doing stream clean ups and aquatic invertebrate sampling,” field crew member Kathryn LaBrake says. “I love to help other people and make a difference in my community. I am also an avid Philadelphia sports fan!”

For Max Knapich, the park is a local institution. “I grew up in Mt. Airy and have hiked the Wissahickon all my life. Served 6 years in the Army, Pennsylvania National Guard. Have always had a passion for the outdoors, hiking, camping, and fishing. Excited to be working for FOW to help improve upon projects and cleaning up the park. Using skills and knowledge I’ve learned over the years to take care of the Wissahickon. I’m a reserved, but caring person, like to support my teammates and help others anyway I can.”

Likewise, nature and the outdoors are a constant perk of the job for crew members Claire DeSalme and Ben Haas. Before walking into the Wissahickon, Ben spent most of his life convinced he would have to sit behind a desk for a living. Now, he alternates hiking days with baking, making music, and hanging out with his cat Fussbudget. An alumnus of St. John’s College (in Annapolis, MD) and a Master Watershed Steward trainee, he is always looking to learn more about ecology and conservation. A quote he’s inspired by: “There is no point in hurrying because you are not actually going anywhere. However far or long you plod, you are always in the same place: in the woods.” – Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods

Meanwhile, Claire’s friends like to describe her as a “nature queen”: “I love plants, animals, but most of all sharing the knowledge of the things I love with others,” she explains. “I am studying horticulture at the Barnes Arboretum and my goal is to share what I learn there with others and help them bring the beauty of the natural world into their lives whenever possible. From hiking to growing flowers in my tiny backyard to strawberries, anything that follows nature, is where I belong. And it’s an honor to share that with others.”

Last but not least, Tristan Fuentes is working on stewardship skills as well as amateur photography in his spare time. “Both the weed whip and machete are my preferred tools of choice. My favorite place in the park has got to be either Andorra Meadow or Red Covered Bridge for sure. In my free time I love to play volleyball, bike, take photos and watch anime. If you see me hiking the trails or whipping the gator around Forbidden Drive, definitely wave or say hello. I’m always down to talk about the park, biking or music.”

What can you do to make things better in the park this summer? Tristan offers some suggestions: “The Wiss is a beautiful park and an amazing place to spend your days. Always carry in, carry out to maintain that beauty. And those of you that leave grills are really wasting your money, take them with you!”

Find more information on how to plan your visit – and keep the Wissahickon beautiful – at FOW’s Plan Your Visit Page!