Mt. Airy’s plan for illegal dumping

An East Mount Airy-based volunteer group will likely have to wait several months before it can begin cleaning-up a small plot of wild forest situated along the Cresheim Creek.

For years, the six-acre site near the intersection of Stenton Avenue and Cresheim Valley Drive has been an unofficial dumping ground for garbage that ranges from carpet remnants to abandoned cars.

Members of the Wissahickon East Project would like to change that, but can’t because the land is currently owned by private developer DeSouza Brown Inc.

“We have been in a bit of legal limbo,” said Managing Advisor Antje Mattheus. “We cannot put any real signs there. It’s not our land. It’s not city land.”

Mattheus and her colleagues have been working with officials from Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation on transferring the land to the city and incorporating it into Fairmount Park.

Mark Focht, executive director of Fairmount Park, said DeSouza Brown has made a verbal agreement with the city to donate the property. But a survey of the land and several legal documents must be processed before anything becomes official.

Throw in an approval by city council and it will be May or June of 2011 before the city could take control of the land, said Focht.

And until the land becomes public, he said, there isn’t a lot city officials can do stop people from dumping in the area.

For now, neighbors can clean up along Cresheim Valley Drive and Anderson Street, which butts up against the woods at Woodbrook Lane.

“If it’s in the street right of way we can do some clean up,” said Focht.

Residents can also look through the trash for anything that has an address. Focht said that information could help police prosecute people after the fact.

If the city does acquire the land, Focht said there are several methods Fairmount Park can employ to deter people from using the land like a six-acre trash can. Those strategies include placing large boulders along the park’s perimeters to create a natural barrier and placing signs that warn against dumping.

“Even if the short dumping continues, it happens right out along the front edge,” said Focht. “It’s not ideal, but at least if it happens, it happens in a place that’s much easier to clean-up.”

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