FOW, the Creek & You: Natural Partners

Maura McCarthy, Executive Director, Friends of the Wissahickon

FOW photo
Volunteers do come in all sizes, but we’re pretty sure these guys are just enjoying a day off.

Super April Saturdays with FOW

Saturday, April 7, Annual Philly Spring Clean Up, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Saturday, April 21, Earth Day Trail Work Day, 9 a.m.-1 p.m

Saturday, April 28, Annual Creek Clean-up, 9-11 a.m. (Talkin’ Trash Picnic follows from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.)

Visit for meetup information for the April work days, and be sure to register!

We love walking along Wissahickon Creek, watching it glisten in the sun and hearing the water’s soothing sounds. But even more important than being beautiful, Wissahickon Creek serves a vital purpose as a habitat for local wildlife and as part of the Wissahickon watershed, which contributes to the drinking water of 350,000 Philadelphians. And let’s not forget fishing! For all these reasons, Friends of the Wissahickon works diligently to protect the creek from stormwater and pollutant control to trash removal.

How do we do this? With this year’s Earth Day focusing on ending plastic pollution that, among other things, clogs our steams, what better time to take a closer look at FOW’s efforts to keep the creek clean and safe? That work falls into three broad categories:

Capital Projects: These initiatives center on erosion control, stormwater management and sedimentation abatement. FOW is currently undertaking major construction projects on three popular park areas: Forbidden Drive, where work will be done to widen three areas where collapses caused by erosion and flooding caused narrowing; at Valley Green Road, Mt. Airy Avenue and Kitchen’s Lane; and in Andorra, where Phase I of FOW’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure project will mitigate damage from stormwater flows from Northwestern Avenue, greatly decreasing sedimentation carried into the creek.

Education and Land Conservation: Together with the Chestnut Hill Conservancy, FOW educates landowners in the Wissahickon watershed about the value of voluntarily limiting future development to limit stormwater runoff and facilitating open-space conservation through easements. Through FOW’s Valley Talks and public meetings, we connect local constituents with other Wissahickon stakeholders and the Philadelphia Water Department for updates and discussion on water quality management issues. The Protect Our Watershed program, dubbed POW, is an important preservation effort and also a winning solution for all involved.

Policy and Advocacy: A crucial part of FOW’s mission is partnering with other watershed groups and municipalities to represent Philadelphians who use the Wissahickon. Establishing the EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load requirements for sedimentation, co-creating programs with like-minded partners and bringing together decision-makers in the community — in business and at all levels of government — are crucial parts of FOW’s mission. I also speak and testify, often with our partners, on regulation and policy initiatives that protect the health of our environment and citizens.

At FOW, we’ve found that whether it’s educating the community about efforts like POW, or recruiting members and volunteers, knowledge equals action: The more people understand what we’re doing and why, the more likely they are to get involved.

Now that you know more about how FOW works to protect the Wissahickon and the citizens who depend on it, how can you help?

  • Join FOW: Your membership dollars help FOW create a sustainable trail network in Wissahickon Valley Park, designed to limit erosion, protect the fragile forest habitat, improve the water quality of the creek and enhance visitor experience throughout the park.
  • Be a clean water advocate: Stay on top of local water-related issues. Voice your support with elected officials who have influence over policies that affect our watershed, and vote on relevant election ballot initiatives and referendums.
  • Volunteer: Participate in projects like habitat management or watershed reclamation work. There are a lot of projects and we always need volunteers! (Weavers Way Working Members can get their hours by volunteering with FOW.) Registration is recommended so that volunteers can be notified of changes or cancellations. These volunteer opportunities are free and open to the public.

We have special cleanup days in April, May and June — we’re always looking for extra hands to clear trash and debris that often finds its way from the trail to the creek.

For more information and to register, visit