Thanks to city for stopping project

We are writing you to express gratitude for the decision of the Department of Parks and Recreation to withdraw the proposal for “Treetop Adventure” in Wissahickon Park.

Should this issue or a similar one arise again we would like to express our strong opposition to allowing a for-profit company to take a significant amount of urban wilderness parkland to build and operate a concession like “Treetop Adventure.” Such a commercial venture is very different in kind and impact from Valley Green Inn or bicycle rentals, stables, etc.

We are both longtime users of Wissahickon Park and the co-authors of a comprehensive study of the valley, Metropolitan Paradise: The Struggle for Nature in the City: Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Valley, 1620-2020” (Philadelphia: St. Joseph’s University Press, 2010).

Our book makes clear, as do extensive documents in the Fairmount Park archives, that the Wissahickon portion of Fairmount Park was conceived in 1868 as a wilderness park. Over the generations, dedicated individuals and groups have fought to safeguard this wilderness preserve.

For example, In the early 1900s, residents and civic action groups, in Northwest Philadelphia successfully opposed allowing automobiles along what is now called Forbidden Drive. In the 1930s, comparable groups blocked a plan to build and operate a number of large food concessions in the park.

“Treetop Adventure” would have represented a similar threat to Wissahickon Park that would have greatly changed its designated character. The facility, would have fenced off five to seven acres of the park, thereby closing it to other park users, who would not wish to pay the proposed $25 to $30 entry fee.

The necessity to fence this facility would further stop the movement of people and wildlife through a part of the park. As our book makes clear, the success of Wissahickon Park, unlike the other stream valley parks of Philadelphia, is its complete connectedness.

Any new facility of this size would require a new parking lot that would impede this connectedness, destroy the wilderness character of Wissahickon Park, remove significant vegetation and cause serious storm water damage (even following the requirements of our excellent Water Department).

Allowing such a commercial use as “Treetop Adventure” (no matter how apparently commendable as a recreation amenity) would create a “slippery slope,” which would open the gates to other commercial ventures that take over precious parkland for restricted use in a park that for 150 years has been set aside for a wide range of visitors as an oasis of “re-creation.”

Thank you again for withdrawing this proposal and for preserving one of the most successful urban wilderness parks in America.

David R. Contosta

Carol L. Franklin

Chestnut Hill


Iron Hill Supporting Special Needs

On Tuesday, May 28, Iron Hill is hosting a fundraiser for the PEAL Center. Iron Hill has a terrific program where a charity can have an event and 20 percent of the food proceeds goes right to the charity. It is a great venue, service, and in the case of PEAL, a great cause.

The PEAL Center pealcenter.og – is a dynamic nonprofit that is dedicated to helping families with special needs. From early intervention, education, teen years, and adult transitions – PEAL is there for families to help in all facets of their educational life.

They immediately help with resources, services, workshops, mentoring, parent groups and advocacy. These are all free services for families that need help. They are the most results – oriented group serving the special needs community and serve families all across the state.

Want to help? Go to Iron Hill and have a wonderful dinner. If you want to make an immediate difference in the lives of these families, come out Tuesday and present the coupon you can download here:

Hope to see you there – Thanks Iron Hill

Gerald Tracy

PEAL Board Member

Chestnut Hill


Thanks to Bill, whoever you are

Two fieldstone gate posts mark the entry into Fairmount Park from Crefeld Street close to Norman Lane – a marvelous, heavy, wrought iron gate swung back and forth, in easy response to even a gentle touch, despite its awesome weight; the serious bolt slid back and forth and nestled securely into a niche cut out in the stone. Then, one day, much to my consternation, the gate was gone, no, not gone, but dismantled and leaning against the stately heavy wrought iron fence that had bordered the park for, what, 100 years? Irritating, thought I, and even entertained thoughts of irresponsibility, “Well, things can’t last forever,” or “Another sign the world’s going to hell.”

Tonight, at the end of a lovely Mother’s Day, while walking past the gate I was delighted to see it back in place, wearing a handwritten sign, hung on the pickets with a shiny green satin ribbon. It read, “BILL, THANK YOU FOR REPAIRING THE GATE.” The gate had been firmly bolted on the large stained post. Again, the gate was perfectly hung, beautifully balanced, so that with the lightest pressure it swung open widely, welcoming one into the magical pathways leading to the Wissahickon and the real world.

I wish I knew who Bill were. He (I presume to think that “Bill” is a he) deserves a visible paean.

Thank you, Bill, for restoring the gate and my faith in mankind (or at least a sample of it).

George Spaeth

Chestnut Hill


Why were union contractors chosen?

The new K-8 Wissahickon Charter School in Mt. Airy has chosen to construct its new building using only union companies.

As a construction trade association representing nearly 450 merit shop construction companies throughout eastern Pennsylvania with nearly 12,000 employees, the Associated Builders & Contarctors of Eastern Pennsylvania (ABCPA) believes this is a highly discriminatory decision.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor Statistics, more than 80 percent of construction companies in Pennsylvania choose not to be signatory to a union. In fact, a majority of construction workers have chosen not to belong to a union. Why should only 20 percent of construction companies be invited to work on the Wissahickon Charter School? Must the children enrolled in the school also come from union-only homes?

In addition, academic studies overwhelmingly show that union-only PLAs cost more per square foot for construction projects such as schools. It is wrong for Wissahickon Charter School to deny the vast majority of construction workers the opportunity to work on this project.

Mary R. Tebeau, CAE

President & CEO ABCPA


Did you know

Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare? 4th grade is the watershed year.

· On average 46 young people stop attending school every day

· Illiteracy costs business and taxpayers $225 BILLION a year?

Shocking? Yes. Is there something we can do? Yes.

The Free Library Board of Trustees proposed to City Council that we eliminate fines for children age 12 and under so they can continue to have access to books and other materials all year round.

This does not take away the responsibility for children to return all the materials they have borrowed. If they have not returned a book, they can’t borrow another until the missing book is brought back. What I proposed was to eliminate the fines that can accumulate if materials are late and that often intimidate children away from returning to the library.

Quite frankly, a lot of these overdue fines go uncollected and remain as bad debt since many children simply cannot afford to pay them. By eliminating fines, we are removing a significant barrier that can and does prevent Philadelphia’s youth from visiting the library to read, learn, and grow.

There may be a small loss in revenue, but I see the elimination of fines as an investment in our children. By fostering a love of reading and providing a welcoming and safe environment for children in each of our 54 libraries, the Free Library is providing a free educational opportunity that will lead to a productive future.

Join the board and me in encouraging City Council to eliminate fines for children. Let’s together advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity!

Siobhan A. Reardon

President and Director

Free Library of Philadelphia


Lock him up for life

The jury finds Dr. Kermit Gosnell guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in the death of three babies. Don’t give him the death penalty. Sentence him to life imprisonment. Put him in the darkest recess of a single cell. Let him live out his final days where he will never again see the stars and moon or the sun in a clear blue sky. Darkness will be his only companion.

Let us hope that those in the future who get pregnant, but do not wish to raise a child, do not go to an abortion clinic. They should go to a well-known and registered adoption agency. There are thousands upon thousands of qualified couples who are wishing each and every day that they could become parents.

Tom Woodruff




I read with interest today’s column by Harold I. Gullam “Hail to the Chiefs: Reflections on Presidents” However, I immediately noted a significant error. Although 1967 is personally significant (college graduation), and the so-called “7 Day War” occurred, it is not the year President Eisenhower intervened in the Middle Eastern war involving UK, France, Israel and Egypt.

Eisenhower left the presidency in January, 1961. In 1956, just before the national election, the above mentioned war occurred. Indeed, there is strong historical evidence that Eisenhower was propelled, in part, to reelection as a result.

Sam C. Masarachia, M.D.