The Friends of the Wissahickon has long helped the park by organizing volunteer efforts. Here a troop of Boy Scouts works to remove tent caterpillars from park trees circa 1945. (Photo courtesy of Chestnut Hill Historical Society archives)

The Friends of the Wissahickon has long helped the park by organizing volunteer efforts. Here a troop of Boy Scouts works to remove tent caterpillars from park trees circa 1945. (Photo courtesy of Chestnut Hill Historical Society archives)

by Emily Vanneman

Friends of the Wissahickon will mark 90 years of preserving the beauty and natural history of the Wissahickon Valley by hosting a series of events in Wissahickon Valley Park, starting this month.

“We are incredibly proud to celebrate 90 years of caring for one of Philadelphia’s most special places,” said Maura McCarthy, FOW’s executive director. “The Wissahickon has always been a popular place for people to escape the pressures of the city. With over one million visits each year, the Wissahickon is one of the most utilized outdoor areas in the Philadelphia area. We’re proud to be the steward of this Philadelphia gem.”

Friends of the Wissahickon was founded in 1924 and has since gathered 1,600 members. As a nonprofit organization, FOW works with the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department to keep the grounds in shape for visitors. Together, the organizations work to restore historical park structures, eliminate invasive plant species, monitor watershed management issues, and restore trails throughout the park.

Sponsors, who will be supporting the organization during its 90th anniversary, include McFarland Tree and Landscape, Valley Green Bank, Stratton Management, Kim Whetzel of Berkshire Hathaway Real Estate, Mike Hickey of State Farm Insurance, BestNest and Cedar’s House restaurant. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.

FOW will be holding lectures at various locations throughout the park, such as the presentation at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, at Valley Green Inn. The lecture, entitled “Valley talk: Philadelphia’s living waterways – the past, the present, and what we have to look forward to,” will be presented by biologist David Hewitt,

The month of May also will be filled with new hikes and events for the public. A bird hike with Ruth Pfeffer, an expert birder, and the Forbidden 10K race on Forbidden Drive will kick off the early summer events.

The organization is also planning to have a family picnic and an ice cream social during the summer months.

Anniversary events will conclude with the 90th Anniversary Gala at the Valley Green Inn.

McCarthy noted that the passion of Chestnut Hill residents has helped to bolster the success of Friends of the Wissahickon.

“The leadership of people living in Chestnut Hill has powered the Friends of Wissahickon,” she said.

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