On April 17, twenty-five FedEx employees and representatives of Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW) performed a volunteer service project that will pave the way for the restoration of a tributary in the Wissahickon Valley Park.

by Lou Mancinelli

On April 17, twenty-five FedEx employees, directed by the guidance of Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW), performed a volunteer service project that will set the stage for the restoration of a tributary in the Wissahickon Valley Park, along Forbidden Drive behind Chestnut Hill Academy, unofficially known as Valley Green Run.

Volunteers removed invasive plant species along Valley Green Run and planted two new trees in a rain garden that filled in with debris during Hurricane Irene on the far side of the parking lot closest to the Valley Green Inn. The project was the first step towards the larger FOW goal of stabilizing 350 linear feet of the stream and preserving the beauty and natural habitat of the historic park. Large-scale tributary restoration will begin this summer.

“As much as we work in and around Philadelphia we don’t get as much time to get out in green space,” said Martin Diguglielmo, Senior Manager of the Philadelphia  FedEx location, and one of the volunteers.

This year FOW was one of 14 nonprofits from around the country selected by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and FedEx to receive funding as part of the company’s Earth Smart Outreach campaign, a collaboration with the NFWF, now in its fourth year.

For years, with a recognizable increase in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011 and other recent years, aggressive storms have flooded the Wissahickon, causing erosion and various elements of the park’s infrastructure to need to be restored over time.

“Every storm it gets dramatically worse,” said Ruffian Tittmann, FOW Director of Development and Operations.

When the final restoration of the Valley Green Run is completed, the adjacent parking lot will have also been resurfaced, according to Henry Stroud, FOW Project manager. Stream work is designed to improve stream degradation like erosion and adjust the slope of the hill that ascends beyond the stream.

Heavy machinery will excavate debris that have been swept into the stream. Then, according to Stroud, the stream will be rebuilt. That work will begin in July and will take about 12 weeks, according to Tittmann. The asphalt lot work will take four to six weeks. When that work is completed, FOW will replant native species, according to Stroud. The project is funded by sources including the Chestnut Hill Community Fund, Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development, and with the kind support of labor and material from the Philadelphia Water Department, according to Tittmann.

“For us it made more sense to get the invasives out first,” said Stroud. “When then the machines get in, it would spread around and cause a larger problem. […] If that erosion continued unmitigated you could see the loss of really important park habitat and tree species.”

FedEx provided a grant of $30,500 for FOW, leveraging $9,500 in funding through NFWF and $388,500 from local matching sources for a total impact of $428,500 benefiting FOW for this project.

The water in the Wissahickon Creek directly affects the drinking quality of the water in Center City and Northwest Philadelphia, according to both Stroud and Tittmann. The Wissahickon Creek empties at the confluence of the creek and the Schuylkill River by the Queen Lane Water Treatment Plant, which treats an average of 70 million gallons of water a day.

In recognition of FedEx’s 40th Anniversary, it named April as its Global Month of Service. The company hosts FedEx Cares volunteer service projects each year and two outreach projects each year. Employees decide if they want to participate.

For Jess DeCray, this was her fifth FedEx Cares service project. The projects have provided her the opportunity to work at various parks in the Philadelphia area as well as meet employees she might not have ever encountered.

“A lot of these people I don’t even know because they’re from different buildings,” said DeCray, who has worked for FedEx for seven-and-a-half years. “I just feel like it’s a good thing to do for the community.”

“I think it’s awesome to come out and see stuff that’s actually going to make a change,” said Alex Karbow, a Northeast Philadelphia resident.

Those restorations take time and money. The more FOW continues to apply and be selected for grants like this, according to Tittmann, the more likely the group is to be awarded additional grants, as long as it can demonstrate the value of work realized through the money it receives.

Clean up Saturday

The Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW) and the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association (WVWA) are joining forces to clean the Wissahickon Creek from top to bottom on Saturday, April 27 from 9 a.m. to noon.

This spring marks the 43rd  anniversary of the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association’s annual Creek Clean Up, and the fourth year that FOW has teamed up with WVWA to clean all 21 miles of the Wissahickon Creek. Volunteers of all ages will clean the creek, its surrounding trails, and its many tributaries. Armed with bags, volunteers will be assigned to sections of the creek to collect anything from plastic bags and swing sets, to mattresses and tires.

Following the clean up, all volunteers are invited to WVWA’s Talkin’ Trash picnic held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Fort Washington Park’s Flourtown Pavilion on Mill Road in Flourtown.

To help out in Montgomery County, all volunteers must be pre-assigned a section of the Wissahickon Creek or a tributary to clean. Sites range from Lansdale to Flourtown. WVWA will provide bags and tell you where to place your trash when you finish your section. Please contact Bob Adams, WVWA Director of Stewardship, at 215-646-8866 x14 or bob@wvwa.org. Please indicate the name, size, age range of your group, and if you plan to stay for the picnic.

To work with the Friends of the Wissahickon in Philadelphia, meet at the pavilion along Forbidden Drive, a short distance south of the intersection of Forbidden Drive and Northwestern Ave. (19118). Volunteers will help clean up along the creek, and nearby areas of the park and neighborhood. Parking is available along Northwestern Ave. and other nearby streets, but limited. Volunteers are encouraged to bike or carpool to the event. To participate, register on the FOW website at www.fow.org. Please indicate if you plan to attend the picnic. Contact Volunteer Coordinator Eric Falk with questions at 215-247-0417 x107 or falk@fow.org.