Volunteer Spotlight: Debbie Hoellein

Conservation // September 18, 2019

Each season, we like to highlight the experiences of one of our outstanding volunteers. This time around, we decided to check in with Trail Ambassador, Debbie Hoellein.

How did you decide to volunteer with FOW?
I had been leading hikes for my bike club for several years and a friend of mine told me that FOW was a good organization to join because of the way it supported the park. I joined FOW because I liked hiking in the Wissahickon, but I never volunteered. A fellow cyclist became a trail ambassador and when I learned what the role entailed, I decided I wanted to become one someday. Someday was last year and I love being a trail ambassador!

What do you love about Wissahickon Valley Park?
I love walking in the park and seeing new things. Before becoming a trail ambassador, I liked the feeling of moving quickly through the woods. Someone told me the sparkly rock throughout the Wissahickon was schist and that the Tedyuscung statue looks west, but I was moving too fast to notice much else. When I took the trail ambassador training last year, geology and history interested me the most. As I saw spring evolve this year, plants fascinated me. And I also like hearing the birds. Now, I love walking in the woods and taking everything in with all my senses.

What is one of your favorite moments from volunteering with FOW?
I like leading students on hikes in the park. One of my favorite hikes was with a group of 12-year -old girls last summer, many of whom had never been in the park. It was a lot of fun talking with them and seeing what interested them the most – bugs, turtles, fish, and birds. I hope a lot of them came back to the Wissahickon.

How do you think FOW contributes to the Philadelphia community?
I think FOW contributes exactly what it set out to do: “To preserve the natural beauty and wildness of the Wissahickon Valley Park and stimulate public interest therein.” FOW does this through its work on trails, watershed, and habitat, and with its many outreach activities. So many people who visit cannot believe that such a beautiful place is within the city limits.

What is your favorite spot in the park?
One of my favorite spots in the park (I have many) is the wet stream crossing area on the Summit Avenue re-route. It is so beautiful in the summer when the trees have all their leaves and you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.