Our year in the park.
What a year in the Wissahickon! In 2021, thanks to the support of our fantastic members, partners, and friends, we were able to accomplish amazing things for Wissahickon Valley Park. It’s hard to choose, but here are some of the highlights…
Keeping it clean and green
Starting early in the year, volunteers were out on the trails making improvements!
FOW Crew Leaders improved 5.6 miles of trail in 2021, including rerouting the Orange Trail at Monastery Mansion, and removing 50 downed trees. Sustainable trail and infrastructure improvements like these have a direct impact on the water quality of the Wissahickon Creek by slowing down stormwater runoff and reducing erosion, but that’s not all we did for our favorite waterway. With the help of an expanded seasonal field crew and volunteer Wissaheroes, we removed an unprecedented 13.5 tons of trash from the park before it found its way into the creek.
This year also marked the beginning of our public engagement process around FOW’s Master Restroom Facilities Plan, which will bring additional restrooms to the park to support increasing demand. Thank you to everyone who contributed to our park user survey, and don’t miss a second public meeting around the process in February – you can share your thoughts here in the meantime about where you’d like to see more restrooms in the park!
Helping our habitat
FOW’s restoration efforts created two new areas of high-quality habitat in the park this year, at Saul School Pond and Houston Ravine. In April and May, we partnered with the Xerces Society to plant hundreds of native wildflower plugs at a stormwater retention pond near the Saul Agricultural School, turning the area into a haven for pollinators. In Houston Ravine, formerly filled with invasive species like knotweed and honeysuckle, FOW volunteers worked alongside Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s Natural Lands team to plant nearly 600 native trees and restore the forest. Overall, this year we planted 1,017 native trees and shrubs and cut back 42,041 square feet of invasive plants to make the park a better home for local wildlife.
For our bird box count in early spring, volunteers checked more than 60 bird boxes in Houston and Andorra Meadow for signs of habitation, finding 8 Eastern bluebirds, 53 house swallows, and 5 Carolina chickadees. This year was also the first for our habitat monitoring program, which will help us fill data gaps in FOW’s Ecological Land Management (ELM) Plan and better understand changes in the park. Interested in helping out? You can volunteer to be a habitat monitor anytime here.
Building community around conservation
Our public engagement and volunteer programming came roaring back this year, bringing together 4393 members of our park community – including 1041 individual volunteers who spent 8208 volunteer hours stewarding the Wissahickon.
In July, we were excited to host a Hot Spot in the Wissahickon alongside our partners at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. We learned a lot about the seven principles of Leave No Trace and how to teach them so people feel invested in caring for and conserving the park. Look out for Leave No Trace signage in the new year that explains what you can do to better take care of the Wissahickon.
FOW Trail Ambassadors contributed their time and knowledge to teach us more about the park: they expanded our Trails to the Past page, held virtual events on trees, trails, rescuing injured wildlife, birding, fishing, and the Fingerspan Bridge this spring, and returned to leading in-person walks and talks in July. We ended the year with 46 walks and talks: look for a list of upcoming ones in 2022 at fow.org/events. And we also had five amazing Virtual Valley Talks with experts on the environment and the Wissahickon – if you missed one, you can watch the recordings on our YouTube channel.
Finally, we are proud to announce that we grew our community to 2,729 members this year. Friends like you ensure that the unique and beloved green space that is Wissahickon Valley Park is conserved for generations to come. You make it possible for us to clean the creek, repair trails, and provide free educational programming to the community. And we can’t wait to do more for the Wissahickon next year thanks to your help.
Support our plans in 2022!
We’ve got big plans for next year, including closing Lincoln Drive to clean up the park for 2022’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service (register here!), capital projects we’ll be talking more about at the Annual Public Projects Meeting in January, and a second public comment meeting to advance FOW’s Restroom Facilities Master Plan. And we will need your support to make them happen: you can become a member, donate to FOW, or volunteer with us here.
Thank you so much, friends – and here’s to a great 2022!