Recent tree clearing is part of watershed plan

Residents and regular park users may have noticed a large change on the edge of Wissahickon Park. Over the past month or so crews have cleared away trees along Henry Ave from the Boy Scout House at Wigard Ave. all the way toward the west entrance of the Valley Green Inn and many other places in that area. This clearing is all part of the Wise’s Mill Run Restoration project.

“The project deals with limiting erosion, storm water management and lessening non-point pollution sources,” said Maura McCarthy, executive director of the Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW).

According to McCarthy, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), the Department of Parks and Recreation (of which Fairmount Park is now a part) and other volunteer groups have been collaborating to restore the tributary that flows into the Wissahickon Creek. The FOW recently restored a Spring House near the source of the stream. The stream parallels along Wise’s Mill Rd.

“This work will serve the dual purpose of helping to protect Philadelphia Water Department infrastructure that is located in the banks of the stream, as well as reducing the amount of sediment that is being carried by the stream from the eroding stream banks to Wissahickon Creek,” wrote PWD spokesperson Joanne Dahme in an email.

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According to the web site of the Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers (WRV), the goal of the project is to “[increase] bird habitat, increasing plant diversity, and improvement of the infiltration of storm water runoff. Due to intense deer browse and fairly recent agricultural activities, native plants along the stream corridor are pressured by a number of invasive species such as devil’s walking stick, multiflora rose, tree-of-heaven, oriental bittersweet, Japanese knotweed and even kudzu.”

“We are working at multiple sites within the watershed, including the area along Wise’s Mill Road below Henry on the Park, and also in areas around Summit Ave. and Seffert St.,” wrote Dahme. “The areas around Summit Ave. and Seffert St. are both stream restoration sites, where we will be protecting stream banks from further storm water-induced erosion.”

In the area next to the Henry on the Park apartment complex, PWD is constructing a storm water treatment wetland. The purpose of this wetland will be to capture and infiltrate storm water into the ground which would normally flow directly into Wise’s Mill Run.

“In order to build this facility, we will be clearing much of the vegetation from the area at the bottom of the hill (including all of the invasive species that are currently present), which will be followed by the digging of the basins and grading of the slopes,” wrote Dahme. “Once the work has been completed though, we will completely replant the area with native species of grass, shrubs, and trees, which should improve the appeal of the property from its current state.”

According to the WRV, since 2004, more than 300 native plants have been planted near the stream supporting the quality of the existing woodland. According the WRV web site, when completed, the 14-acre project will have over four distinct habitat areas including riparian forest, upland scrub/shrub, wetland, and warm season grassland. After the Wise’s Mill Rd project is completed, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be schedule in October.

According to McCarthy, the Water Department is also working on stream restoration along Bells Mill Rd as well.

“The purpose of the [Bells Mill Rd] restoration is to protect the stream and its banks from further erosion due to storm water flows. This will also serve to decrease the amount of sediment which enters the Wissahickon Creek, thereby helping to improve its overall health,” wrote Dahme. “In addition to the stream benefits, the restoration will help to protect Bells Mill Road from future damage by moving the stream away from the road in vulnerable areas and reinforcing the stream banks with large rock structures.”

Dahme also warns that the contractor hired for the project will be accessing the location from Bells Mill Road, so residents should be advised that there will be activity such as equipment mobilization and material deliveries which may affect traffic for short periods. Also, the upper parking lot, known as Lot 4, on Bells Mill Road, on the Roxborough side of the Creek, will be used for mobilization, which may affect the amount of parking available at times.

A full and continually revised list of projects occurring in the Wissahickon Valley can be found in the FOW newsletters on its website

This is an expanded version of an earlier story. The article now includes additional information from the Philadelphia Water Department. 

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