Wissahickon Part of PPR’s Forest Management Program

Newsletter // May 02, 2015

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation’s Forest Management Framework has moved into the first phase of implementation. After extensive research into the current thinking on urban forest management, it became clear that climate change is a key factor in future forest composition, function, and health. The National Wildlife Federation’s Climate-Smart Conservation states: Making a transition to forward-looking and climate-smart conservation will require that we pay particular attention to the following overarching themes:

  • Act with intentionality
  • Manage for change, not just persistence
  • Reconsider conservation goals
  • Integrate adaptation into existing work

To begin to apply these principals, PPR has selected three large-scale, core forest areas in the park system. Our planning work began in the Haddington Woods area of Cobbs Creek Park, a twenty-seven-acre site which includes a variety of forest types and conditions. PPR has formed a group of technical advisors to help us develop restoration approaches that we can test on these sites. This Urban Forest Working Group is made up of a variety of land managers, regulators, and academics who have been meeting to advance theories and experiments for our sites. We have also recruited interested community partners from the Cobbs Creek area and throughout the City (including FOW staff) to participate directly in this process. In order to prepare for this “participatory research,” and to provide a knowledge base for working collaboratively with the technical advisors, they have attended a series of classes focused on ecology, land management, and experimental design. These partners will help to inform the management methods for the site. In addition, they will monitor sites and gather data that is critical for successful adaptive management.

The two additional core forest sites, Wissahickon Park near Wigard Avenue and Pennypack Park at Three Springs Hollow, will also be conserved using these methods. Haddington and Wigard invasive vegetation clearing is underway and will continue through

March 2015. Herbicide treatment will be done this summer. Deer exclusion fencing will be installed later this spring on all three sites. Implementation of a variety of experiments related to management techniques and vegetation species selection will follow, along with rigorous, on-going monitoring.

While we recognize that climate adaptation is still an emerging field, PPR has a strong interest in understanding what truly constitutes climate adaptation, and more importantly, how it can be applied in our urban natural areas. The work we do over the next several years will help us begin to answer those questions.

By Joan Blaustein, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. Joan S. Blaustein is Director of Urban Forestry in the Ecosystem Management Division of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.