Watershed setbacks are needed for the Wissahickon

City Council members need to hear from you about watershed setbacks!

When the new zoning code went into effect back in August, the Wissahickon Watershed Ordinance expired. It protected the watershed that comprises much of Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy by controlling development within a setback of 200 feet, maintaining riparian buffer of vegetation that prevents stream bank erosion and cleans the water flowing into the stream.

The water of the Wissahickon flows into the Schuylkill, which, by the way, is part of the drinking water supply for the city of Philadelphia, along with water from the Delaware. Protecting the quality of water is important for protecting the quality of life in our city.

The zoning bill that was forwarded to City Council last spring included watershed protections. However, at the last minute, they were removed from the bill with the idea that a new proposal for that component of the code would be introduced in the fall when council had more time to consider the implications of citywide stream bank protections.

After meetings (by invitation) over the summer, a new bill has been proposed with a 50-foot setback. However, in the past few days there has been a move to cut that setback to 25 feet. A more ideal setback would be 100 feet. Fifty feet was already a compromise, but 25 feet would be ineffective at preventing erosion and at protecting water quality according to the EPA.

Note that 50 feet or even 100 feet would be a reduction of the protection of 200 feet that we previously had with the Wissahickon Watershed Ordinance. The community should initiate a discussion about what would be appropriate setbacks for the Wissahickon – specifically should they differ from setbacks for other waterways in Philadelphia.

Many other cities and rural areas have required watershed setbacks. Establishing them for Philadelphia should be part of Philadelphia’s plan to improve health throughout the city.

Contact City Council members to encourage them to protect the health of the city and its water supply by enacting a bill with an ideal setback of 100 feet, or at the bare minimum 50 feet. The Wissahickon should not be without protection!

Betsy Masters
Chestnut Hill


What is a FreeCycle?

I was first introduced to the concept of a freecycle at last year’s Mt Airy Village Fair. Mt Airy resident Meenal Raval organized a freecycle for the event. It looked exactly like a yard sale except that volunteers patrolled the tables shouting “yes, everything is free!”

The surprised looks struck me as very funny. Peopled questioned it even when they heard the volunteers. I am not sure if anyone had ever seen this concept in action before – I hadn’t. It’s a free market and it really made me rethink the value of my stuff.

From an environmental perspective, it is brilliant because it encompasses the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle.” You reduce the stuff in your house/car/office by passing it along to someone else who can reuse and recycle it in their lives. Keeping “would be” trash from landfills helps reduce the toxic harmful methane gasses produced by landfills and reduces pollution by putting less trash in gas guzzling trash trucks.

Inspired by Meenal’s efforts, Green in Chestnut Hill (GRinCH) organized a Clothing freecycle titled Things People Need-Not Thneeds during the Trail of the Lorax event. We thought it was a great fit for the event – Dr Seuss’ “The Lorax” is about the environmental dangers of over consumption and the importance of trees and preservation.

We asked citizens to donate their gently used clothing, shoes and accessories. Valley Green Bank generously sponsored the event by making the Chestnut Hill branch a drop off sight as well as promoting it in their advertizements. Bowman Properties donated the Magarity space for us to sort the carloads of donations and hold the event.

GRinCHees Linda Rauscher, Alix Rabin, Noreen Spota, Zeta Cross and Lana Corrales, plus volunteers Mansura, Janna, Matt and Rena, sorted through bags upon bags for hours. We even had two guerrilla volunteers show up and jump in sorting and consolidating the clothing on racks. GRinCH thanks everyone involved – from donaters to volunteers to business people.

In four hours the four-plus carloads of clothing, shoes and accessories were reduced to one carload, which was taken to Meenal’s house for this year’s freecycle at the Village Fair!

Amy Edelman
Green in Chestnut Hill