by Emily Vanneman

As Northwest Philly recovers from a vicious winter, residents are venturing back out onto local trails and streets. Unfortunately, what they see may leave much to be desired.

Littering has become an increasingly dire issue over the past 10 years, but Bradley Maule, of Mt. Airy, editor of Hidden City Philadelphia, has decided to raise awareness about litter in the Wissahickon Valley and surrounding areas by turning trash into art. Over the next year, Maule will collect trash in the Wissahickon Valley and add it to his trash sculpture.

“I wanted to actually do something about the litter that has bothered me so much since I moved to Philadelphia in 2000,” he said. “On a broader level, I think seeing the finished product will be a little jolting. I don’t necessarily hope to inspire other people to pick up trash – I’d rather people not litter in the first place.”

Maule’s frustration with the state of the environment in Philadelphia is bolstered by the attitude that residents have toward litter.

“Litter has always been my pet peeve living in Philly,” he said. “It seems to be an indoctrinated institution, and that is sad. It’s a quality of life thing that has adverse affects on the Philadelphia experience, especially in a place as magical as the Wissahickon.

“The ‘pack it in, pack it out’ principle shouldn’t have to be taught. It doesn’t matter if it’s Chestnut Hill or Kensington or South Philly – litter’s nothing to be proud of anywhere.”

Another of Maule’s observations is that many people fail to properly dispose of dog waste in the area.

“I don’t understand why so many people bother to pick it up in a bag and then throw the bag into the woods,” he said. “It’s like: Why add the extra layer?”

The Friends of Wissahickon hopes that Maule’s project will encourage people in the area to be more mindful when it comes to trash.

“FOW holds numerous cleanups annually to remove trash from the Park,” said Henry Stroud, project manager at the Friends of Wissahickon. “Brad’s art project is a really creative way to bring the issue of litter to the forefront and to remind people to practice ‘leave no trace’ trail practices and to carry out what they carry in.”

Maule also expressed his gratitude to the Friends of Wissahickon for their support of his project.

“They’ve been great – very helpful,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to do this project without the help of FOW and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. They’ve both been valuable partners.”

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