by Sam Loth, Fund Drive Committee Member

It takes partnerships and many hands in the community. In late October six acres of new land along Cresheim Valley Drive were added to Fairmount Park through the advocacy of community nonprofits Wissahickon East Project, Friends of the Wissahickon and the Chestnut Hill Historical Society.

In November, with seed money from the Chestnut Hill Community Fund Drive, the Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW) finished a reconstruction of the upper parking area and the tributary stream walls along Valley Green Road. Erosion in the stream bed was undermining the integrity of the adjacent parking lot and causing it to collapse into the stream.

From inception to planning to construction over several years, both of these projects owe their successful completions to the hundreds, even thousands of northwest Philadelphia volunteers and professionals who have worked diligently to retain the high quality of life we all enjoy here in our community.

The Friends of the Wissahickon has been around since 1924. The organization is preparing to celebrate its 90th anniversary next year. Its current membership numbers 1,600, and all are dedicated to the mission of “preserving the natural beauty and wildness of the Wissahickon Valley.”

All 1,800 acres and 57 miles of trails in the Wissahickon Park are owned by the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department, which works in partnership with the FOW to renew historic structures, eliminate invasive species, monitor watershed issues, rehabilitate trails and additionally oversee park activities including biking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, jogging and more. The FOW receives no funding to operate from the Parks Department and remains an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

The FOW maintains a water resources center and a watershed protection program, is active in structure restoration throughout the Wissahickon Valley, and operates a sustainable trail initiative and more. The Chestnut Hill Community Fund has also provided grant funding to the FOW to help support several initiatives including the Safety, Outreach and Community Engagement program, which seeks to provide the public with a safe, informative and fulfilling experience when visiting the park.

As you might expect in a wild area there are many hazards. The FOW cooperates with park rangers, local police, community volunteers and others to make visitors aware of hazards, such as steep and slippery trails, attractive but dangerous spots like Devil’s Pool, the interaction of different activities, such as horseback riding and bicycling, and to keep exuberant behavior in check that can be occasionally distracting.

In 2014 the FOW will embark upon the final planning stages of the Upper Trails Wayfinding and Signage System, which will create a standardized graphic and illustrative signage system to direct, instruct and educate visitors along the trails and at gathering places like the Northwestern Stables and the Valley Green Inn. Once final planning is completed, the FOW expects to begin construction and installation in 2015.

To learn more about the FOW, visit its website www.fow.org or contact FOW Executive Director Maura McCarthy or Director of Development and Operations Ruffian Tittman, both at 215-247-0417. FOW is headquartered along with the Chestnut Hill Historical Society at 8708 Germantown Avenue across from the library.

To help the Chestnut Hill Community Fund continue to support groups like the Friends of the Wissahickon and 30+ more deserving nonprofits in Northwest Philadelphia make a donation today to CHCF at 8434 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118. The CHCF thanks you in advance for your support.

CONTACT: Sam Loth at 484-269-4902 or samloth@comcast.net.