Whether you come by car or foot or by horse, the Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW) is inviting the public to join them as they commemorate the completion of the warming shed at Valley Green with the presentation of a plaque on Sunday at 12 p.m.
The ceremony will take place at the Warming Shed near Valley Green Inn, located on Forbidden Drive in Wissahickon Valley Park. The ceremony will honor the work of donors – many from the local equestrian community – and the volunteers who rebuilt the shed.
The project was undertaken in 2010 after the structure burned down due to an electrical fire during a rain storm. FOW’s Structures Crew, led by Mike Souders of Chestnut Hill, rebuilt the Warming Shed with financial support from the Pennsylvania Equine Council (PEC).
“The Friends of the Wissahickon, together with PEC, is excited that the warming shed is now complete,” said FOW Executive Director Maura McCarthy. “This structure is part of the historic fabric of Wissahickon Valley Park and we hope park users will join us to commemorate its restoration.”
This project marks the fourth time FOW has restored this structure in recent years. In 1999, the FOW rebuilt the shed after it collapsed. Several years later, a fire burned two large holes in the shed, which FOW repaired. Soon after, a large hemlock tree fell on the building, requiring more repair work.
Only a few weeks after the fire in 2010, equestrians rode through Wissahickon Valley Park to raise money to rebuild the Warming Shed. The Ride to Rebuild, organized by the Philadelphia Chapter of the Pennsylvania Equine Council and FOW to help finance the cost of reconstructing the shed, raised over $8,000 toward the estimated construction cost of $20,000.
Approximately 50 horseback riders participated in the fundraising effort: members from Courtesy Stable in Roxborough, Monastery Stable in Mt. Airy and Northwestern Stable in Chestnut Hill, as well as riders from New Jersey, Harrisburg, and York.
‘Ride for the Signs’
In conjunction with the dedication ceremony, the Philadelphia Chapter of the Pennsylvania Equine Council will hold a “Ride for the Signs” event supporting FOW’s Sustainable Trails Initiative at Andorra’s Courtesy Stable.
FOW’s Sustainable Trails Initiative is the Friends of the Wissahickon’s 10-year plan to reroute, rebuild and restore trails in the Wissahickon Valley, according to Cynthia Turecki, co-director of Courtesy Stable and co-director of the Philadelphia county chapter of the PEC.
An installation of entirely new signage throughout the park is underway in order help users understand courtesy on the park’s shared use trail system. The PEC entered the conversation approximately five years ago to work with FOW to help design trails that were horse-friendly.
A “yield” sign will be used, and the “Ride for the Signs” will help raise funds to support the purchase of these signs. Currently there are approximately 30 riders participating on Sunday.
Adding to the character of the neighborhood
Horses have been an intricate part of the Wissahickon Valley for centuries, noted Turecki.
“From the early 1800s, horses have traversed the trails in the Wissahickon Valley,” she said, adding that there are currently about 80 horses residing in barns throughout the Wissahickon. “We want to ensure that continues well into the future.”
In fact, horses were part of the reason Forbidden Drive got its name. Nearly 100 years ago, Turecki explained, approximately 600 horses and riders protested the opening of the then named Wissahickon Turnpike to motorized traffic, thus resulting in the name “Forbidden Drive.”
Long ago, the warming sheds were used by patrons who frequented the Valley Green Inn for its fare of catfish and waffles while the horses would rest in the sheds, keeping warm. Presently, the sheds are used for Horses in the Park, a “meet and greet” event which usually happens on Sundays, when riders park inside the shed and talk to visitors about horses.
“There’s something magical about seeing horses and riders in the park,” said McCarthy. “It’s a big part of the character.”