Putting (Work) Boots on the Ground with FOW

Maura McCarthy, Executive Director, Friends of the Wissahickon

FOW photo
Crew leader Dean Rosencranz supervises fellow FOW volunteers in a construction project.

In my column last month, I focused on the volunteers who come through our many corporate partnerships for special workdays. They help us haul out thousands of pounds of trash, including short-dumping waste, mattresses and tires. Frequently directing these crews is another group of Friends of the Wissahickon volunteers — crew leaders. 

Working directly with FOW staff volunteer and field coordinators, crew leaders form a special corps of stewards who play an integral role in tackling the constant human and natural stressors on the park. 

After intensive training, crew leaders can choose to work on trash and graffiti removal, building and maintaining trails, removing invasive plants and planting native species, or structure repair, sharing their knowledge and expertise with others. 

Why do they brave heat and cold, the hazards of mud, rocks and logs, stinging plants and biting bugs, and the challenge of operating heavy equipment to perform such physically demanding and often dangerous work? Because they know they are making a direct impact for our mission to keep the park beautiful, safe and sustainable for all. They also do it because it’s fun! Volunteering in the Wissahickon is a great way to get outside, make friends, gain valuable skills and learn more about nature, the environment, the history and the geology of our area.

Over the years, we’ve asked crew leaders why they volunteer. Here’s what a couple of them told us: 

‘‘I really enjoy those moments when a group of us is working, and one of the FOW staff or crew leaders takes a minute to point out something in the park, such as a native azalea or the trilliums that just started blooming. I think it reminds all of us who are volunteering that this is a special place, and that’s why we’re doing this work.”

“There is such a sense of pride and satisfaction that goes with volunteering with FOW, and I enjoy every opportunity I get to help out.”

Every December, I take stock of all that we’ve been able to achieve during the year, and am always amazed and gratified by what a critical role FOW volunteers have played. To put a price on this work, in 2017, for example, trail volunteers saved us $36,939 just for helping to monitor the Summit Avenue Trail Reroute. But to FOW, their contributions to the Wissahickon are priceless. 

If becoming an FOW crew leader sounds good to you, this season we’re offering a winter training session for this popular volunteer leadership program, as well as for Trail Ambassadors — the docents of the park who engage with visitors about everything from directions and first-aid needs to park history, flora, fauna and more. The application deadline is Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, but spaces fill up fast. Visit fow.org to complete the volunteer application. For more information about volunteer programs, contact Volunteer Coordinator Shawn Green at green@fow.org

Of course, there are plenty of ways to benefit the Wissahickon. If you’re not a member, please consider becoming one at fow.org (and gain a tax deduction) or give a membership as a gift, tucked in a Wissahickon-related item, like a T-shirt, hat, book, map or our annual calendar. (Browse the collection at shop.fow.org.)

From Friends of the Wissahickon to all our friends in the community, a joyful, healthy and peaceful holiday season.