Jon Everett, store manager at REI Conshohocken (center), and Charles Kline, REI outreach coordinator (right), present a check to FOW Executive Director Maura McCarthy on Dec. 5 at FOW’s Annual Volunteer Appreciation Night at Valley Green Inn.

by Bleu Lane

The Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW) recently received a $15,000 grant from Recreational Equipment Inc (REI) for its Sustainable Trails Initiative (STI).

The grant will fund FOW’s Kitchen’s Lane project in Wissahickon Park in which FOW will close 800 feet of dangerous trail and replace it with 700 feet of sustainable trail.

Support for the park is not new for REI. The company has had a relationship with FOW since the 1990s and funded the very first map FOW published. Maura McCarthy, FOW executive director, said the grant supported a shared interest.

“It is REI customers who are out there using the trails,” she said.

The Kitchen’s Lane project involves closing dangerous sections of trails and replacing them with sustainable ones. The plan includes installing a pedestrian staircase, stabilizing surfaces and overall work on the trail’s ability to shed water.

According to McCarthy, a major part of making the trails sustainable is ensuring that they will not contribute to water problems in the Wissahickon. Trail sustainability also includes ensuring that the trails can be used in multiple ways and can withstand intended use.

“We have so many people using the trail for different purposes, and it is important that they all be able to use it together,” she said.

In addition to the restoration work being done, FOW will encourage proper trail use. McCarthy said that while it cannot enforce proper trail use, trail design is a major way to encourage it. The location of plants, staircases and the texture of terrain on a trail will influence who uses a trail and how it will be used.

Work on the Kitchen’s Lane Project is underway and will use 450 volunteers for an estimated 1,500 hours of labor.

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