From FOW, a New Park Safety Feature: Summer Outreach Aides

Maura McCarthy, Executive Director, Friends of the Wissahickon

Thursday Afternoon
Devil’s Pool Cleanup

Every Thursday afternoon from 1 to 4, we will tackle trash at one of the most beautiful (and popular) spots in the park. Meet at Valley Green Inn; work will consist of collecting trash, separating recycling and general maintenance. Wear sturdy shoes and long pants, and bring a water bottle. For more info, contact Shawn Green at and register at

One of the great things about a visit to Wissahickon Valley Park is that there’s always something new to see. Usually, it’s a bird, a plant or a historical feature, but this summer it’ll be some new faces: Friends of the Wissahickon’s seasonal outreach assistants, who will be greeting visitors at some of the most popular locations in the park during our busiest season and into the fall.

Look for these FOW representatives from Valley Green Inn to Livezey Lane and at Devil’s Pool, where they’ll be communicating three overarching messages: Have fun, stay safe and help keep the Wissahickon beautiful.

Why this increased presence in the park? It has to do with the nature of the Wissahickon, literally. Because we live in a major urban area, it’s easy to forget that the park is an 1,800-acre wilderness with a fragile forest understory. Stocked each spring with trout, the Wissahickon Creek provides drinking water to a third of all Philadelphians. More than a million visitors annually experience the natural beauty and take advantage of park’s abundant recreational opportunities.

While we welcome everyone who wants to enjoy the park, increased visitorship takes its toll, with increased trash, occasional vandalism and just plain carelessness. In April, a fire burned about a half-acre in a secluded area off an upper trail near Devil’s Pool. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and the damage was minimal and likely short-term. But the incident was troubling for what could have happened, and underscores FOW’s paramount responsibility as the park’s steward and the mission of our seasonal outreach assistants: protecting the safety of visitors and habitat.

That’s why they’ll be offering materials and friendly reminders about general park safety, with a focus on these specific areas:

  • Look but don’t leap. Although the Wissahickon Creek is a tempting spot to cool off on a hot day, swimming or wading, especially in Devil’s Pool, is not allowed. It’s unprotected and presents a number of dangers, from uneven depths and potentially fast water (especially after a storm) to submerged debris.
  • Leave no trace. Whenever you visit the Wissahickon, carry out what you carry in, and leave what you find. Enjoy the nature that’s all around you, but in a responsible way that lessens human-created impact.
  • Leash your dog. This isn’t a choice — it’s the law in Philadelphia. Unrestrained dogs can go after each other, spook horses and disturb the habitats of park residents, especially nesting birds.

So when you’re in the Wissahickon this summer, say hello to our seasonal outreach assistants — they’re the ones in the FOW T-shirts. And thank you for your much-needed and -appreciated help in making sure every visit to our beloved park is a safe and happy one.