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Friends of the Wissahickon help heal parklands, trails from weather’s wrath

While a number of communities in the Delaware Valley were affected by flooding from Hurricane Irene and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, Fairmount Park’s Wissahickon Valley saw some of the worst flooding. Yet, for as ferocious as the flooding was in the valley, the efforts to clean up flood damage have been just as intense. Friends of the Wissahickon, a mostly volunteer group, has been instrumental in the quick, yet toilsome clean-up.

Because of the lack of homes in Fairmount Park, the Wissahickon’s serious flooding didn’t garner as much media attention as other local flood spots. However, Kevin Groves, the volunteer coordinator at Friends of the Wissahickon, makes it clear that the park’s landscape was altered from the flooding.

"There was really serious erosion all over the park, and areas of Forbidden Dr. close to the (Wissahickon) creek were under water," reports Groves. Groves elaborates by saying that some segments of the popular hiking trail Forbidden Dr. actually caved in from the strength of the water. Also, Bell’s Mill Rd., a well-traveled artery between Chestnut Hill and Andorra, sustained some damage.

The sheer extent of the damage has failed to deter over a hundred people who have volunteered with Friends of the Wissahickon to help clean up the valley. Groves is clearly proud when he lauds the hundred or so volunteers who showed up for emergency repairs in the famous Valley Green section. In addition, individual dedicated volunteers with the Friends have taken the initiative to go out and conduct their own trail maintenance. 

Even a few weeks after the storms, there is still plenty of damage and plenty of interest in volunteering to fix the damage. This past weekend, about a dozen volunteers labored to take a trail that had partially washed away out of service in the vicinity of the Andorra Tree House on the western rim of the park. This included digging the trail up, mixing the dirt, and placing branches across the path to make it difficult to walk along. The volunteers were an interesting mix of park experts with Friends of the Wissahickon, Chestnut Hill College students, and one reporter.

The effects of tropical systems Irene and Lee have taught the Friends of Wissahickon and the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation one big lesson, which is that trails in the valley can and should be designed to better withstand stormwater. Groves says it’s noticeable how much better the trails that were re-designed to handle flooding held up after the storms. As flooding will never cease to be a threat through the Wissahickon Valley, this is an important lesson to grasp.  

Source: Kevin Groves, Friends of the Wissahickon
Writer: Andy Sharpe

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