Our 2022 Recap
A Year in the Wissahickon Valley Park
By Ruffian Tittmann, Executive Director, Friends of the Wissahickon
In this neck of the woods, the Wissahickon Valley Park is an important part of all our lives. This stunning 1,800-acre piece of paradise provides a place for recreation, respite, and an escape from the stresses of daily life for over 2 million visitors annually. This year, we were so excited and grateful to be back out in the park and once again hosting large-scale cleanups (which included closing Lincoln Drive twice!) and our annual Ice Cream Social, which drew a record 425 guests! And we have nearly reached our pre-pandemic level of stewardship.
It takes a lot of people to keep the park clean and accessible. Every day of the week, Friends of the Wissahickon’s (FOW) field staff and indispensable volunteers (more than 1,000 strong!) are out stewarding the park through habitat restoration, trail improvements, environmental education, and outreach to the park-visiting community. And, with support of our members and community partners, this work contributes to the unique experience you come to the Wissahickon seeking.
We are proud of what FOW achieved in 2022 to make our beloved green space cleaner and more accessible. Here’s a sampling by the numbers (as of November 30):
- Removed 19+ tons of litter from the forest and waterways
- Cut back 3+ acres of invasive plants
- Planted 1,787 native plants
- Improved 20+ miles of trails
- Replaced 300+ fence rails and fixed 175+ fence posts
- Cleared 70+ down trees and limbs
These actions made an impact by protecting Philadelphia’s drinking water, cultivating a healthy forest, and inspiring action to improve the park for generations to come. Every time we sponsor a cleanup, improve an eroded trail, replace invasive plants with native species, conduct watershed education, partner with other groups, even monitor habitat boxes, we are making an investment in the park’s well-being and resilience.
FOW hit the ground running at the start of the year with significant strategic improvement projects that had been stalled because of COVID.
LOWER VALLEY GREEN RUN RESTORATION AND PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE
Years of worsening erosion on both sides of Valley Green Run caused the natural trail to collapse along with the elevated wooden boardwalk, which necessitated the area’s closure to traffic. FOW is well on its way in a $2.5 million investment in what are two simultaneous projects to stabilize the streambank, reduce the speed and force of water flow, and restore an essential trailhead link along Valley Green Road. This complex project will feature a new pedestrian bridge that will move visitor foot traffic off the road as people head down to this central area of the park, with an extended walkway that will be approximately 200 feet long and gently undulate across the newly restored streambank with an added observation platform, allowing park visitors a better view of the Wissahickon’s signature schist outcrops and the historic Valley Green Bridge.
Much of the stream restoration design is complete with early designs for the pedestrian bridge underway. When it is completed, sometime in the fall or winter of 2023, the bridge is expected to become another iconic park feature, like Fingerspan or the Red Covered Bridge.
GERMANTOWN NEIGHBORHOOD CONNECTION PROJECT
This project, which focuses on rehabilitating 1,600 linear feet of crumbling sidewalk on Harvey Street (along the edge of the park), will create safe pedestrian access to the park from Wissahickon Avenue near Rittenhouse Street for neighborhood residents, who currently must cross heavily trafficked Lincoln Drive.
FOW developed a proposal for the scope of services and key design elements with neighbors, contractors, and other stakeholders for an expanded trail network to improve entry to the main stem of the park, as well as newly defined signage and wayfinding. New plantings will help restore the native habitat. FOW and park neighbors, who have held joint cleanups in the area, anticipate that these amenities will beautify the area, discourage illegal dumping, and ultimately encourage more recreation.
RESTROOM FACILITIES MASTER PLAN
The Restroom Facilities Master Plan was one of FOW’s major strategic projects, developed to provide accessible restroom facilities to the growing number of visitors to the park. In February, we held a second public meeting – a key component of this pilot project to guide the master plan’s development. In partnership with PPR, the plan is the initial step of a longer process that will responsibly guide any future development of restrooms in the park. The design process for the installation of a pilot restroom – the next step toward the project’s culmination – will begin in 2023.
There is always a lot more to be done, and there are many opportunities to help in the
Wissahickon. We invite you to join FOW. Visit fow.org/membership. Or, for more hands-on involvement, consider volunteering. Learn about Volunteer Service Days, Wissahero solo stewardship, or private service projects for businesses and organizations at fow.org/volunteering/.
As we look forward to a bountiful new year, we at FOW look back with pride and gratitude for all we have accomplished this year—together.