Volunteers with Friends of Saylor Grove pick up trash from this natural wetland on April 14. (Photo by Sam Newhouse)

by Sam Newhouse

A handful of neighbors gathered on Sunday, April 14 to clear out trash from the small pocket park on Lincoln Drive and Wissahickon Avenue known as Saylor Grove.

The tiny wetlands at the park may be little-known, but it serves an important function to the community. As a wetland, it also cleans and purifies stormwater from West Germantown and environs before they flow into Wissahickon Creek and eventually to the Schuylkill, a source of tap water for many Philadelphians.

The Friends of Saylor Grove Wetlands formed about two-and-a-half years ago, said neighbor Sandra Chaff, the group’s founder, after Water Department officials encouraged locals to step up protection of this important resource. The group holds semi-regular cleanups of the wetlands, which inevitably accumulates some trash that flows into stormwater sewers along the streets of Germantown. The group is behind many of the nearby tiny pink decals alongside stormwater inlets with a smiling fish that says, “Don’t Litter – Drains to Wissahickon.”

The group is protecting Saylor Grove not just as wetlands, but for its role as a diverse natural habitat to fish, local plant life and a variety of birds. Some local birders have counted as many as 90 species around this tiny triangle, including wood ducks, blue herons and even a belted kingfisher.

Right now, the triangular wetland is looking swampier than usual. That’s because it is overdue for a dredging, said volunteer Chris Mohr – silt accumulates over the years and prevents it from draining water effectively, hampering its functionality as a wetland and natural habitat. The city bears responsible for dredging the wetland, but it has yet to set a clear timeline for when the dredging will occur, which Mohr said is needed soon.

The group’s members also perform other tasks – like keeping an eye out for suspicious litter, or the “smell of French fries,” which would indicate fast-food chains up the road illegally dumping their cooking grease. It has been a problem in the past, but has not happened in a few years, volunteers said.

The Friends of Saylor Grove will be back for another cleanup as part of Love Your Park Day on Saturday, May 18, and invite any interested neighbors to join. To learn more, visit Friends of Saylor Grove Wetlands on Facebook or contact SaylorWetlands@gmail.com