Volunteers band together for MLK Day of Service in Northwest Philadelphia

A rusty old bike, a pair of Dallas Cowboys shorts and various car parts were just a few of the items found littering Wissahickon Valley Park on Monday.

An enthusiastic group of 30 volunteers picked up the lot as they hauled trash bags back-and-forth along the Lincoln Drive Trail, all in honor of MLK’s Day of Service.

The effort was organized by the Friends of the Wissahickon, a nonprofit that serves the park. Eric Falk, volunteer coordinator for FOW, says much of the debris was leftover from car crashes along Lincoln Drive, a Northwest Philadelphia road infamous for speeding drivers.

“We have a pile of guard rail pieces, hub caps, fenders, you name it,” said Falk, who also pointed out a tire jutting out from the middle of the creek.

He says it’s unclear why the scattered car parts aren’t cleaned up after accidents, but he surmises it has something to do with limited resources.

“Even the park rangers here can only do so much,” said Falk, “they’re stretched thin.”

He says he’d like to see MLK’s Day of Service inspire people to become active volunteers at the park throughout the year.

“It’s got to start culturally, and that’s something that happens over time,” said Falk, a Mt. Airy/Germantown resident. “I think people love this park, they’re dedicated to it. The biggest thing is for the volunteers to see the difference they make, which is evident here today.”

Volunteers Kimi Bush of Old City and Steve Joering of Queen Village say they were happy to trade the day off from work to take action along the trail.

“I spend a lot of time on this trail,” said Bush, who runs and hikes in the park. “I found this project online and I knew it’d be a great way to give back.”

Joering says Bush invited him to the cleanup and he was happy to take part.

“I’m channeling my boy scout roots today,” said Joering, who uses the trail for hiking. “This is a great way to improve the park, cleanup the trail and give back.”

Volunteer Bradley Maule says he participated for both MLK and to help the park.

“I wanted to do something for the Wissahickon,” said Maule, a Mt. Airy resident who frequents the park for recreation. “I think when people come out to volunteer, they realize that the littering and the debris is a real problem for the park.”

Maule summed up the groups biggest takeaway from the days efforts by saying: “We need action — more than just today — to change it.

Other projects in NW Philly

Check out the gallery for a look at other projects that took place in NW Philadelphia, including a teams at Henry Houston Elementary School in Mt. Airy and at Martin Luther King High School Promise Academy in West Oak Lane who cleaned, painted and organized the schools. 

Take a look at our MLK Day roundup for ideas on how to volunteer throughout the year. 

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