Wister Station cleanup seen as ‘way for people to take pride in their community’

Cleanup crews began working early Saturday morning to clean up the area around the Wister Station regional-rail stop in Germantown.

“Today is an organized effort that gives folks a chance to clean up their neighborhoods,” said Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who attended the Philly Spring Cleanup event along with volunteers from SEPTA, City Year and the East Germantown community.

During the cleanup, City Year members raked leaves and picked up trash around the station.

Rachelle Jean-Baptiste, development associate for City Year, which is a branch of AmeriCorps in which young adults who dedicate a year of service to the city, said the group was present at locations all over the city for the cleanup.

“I think this is a way for people to take pride in their community,” said Jean-Baptiste. “It causes a ripple effect, and the problem can become significantly less over time.”

Concerns about ongoing trash dumping

The group focused on removing trash from an abandoned East Bringhurst Street lot which has become a dumping ground covered with trash, doors, wood, bricks, tires and broken glass.

“This is an isolated area, and that leads to things that we don’t want in our community,” said Bass, who noted the annual cleanup effort continues to gain momentum.

Germantown resident Ross Hennesy and fellow neighbors are lobbying for an installment of a security camera, increased lighting, a stop sign and a crosswalk where the lot is located.

“These cleanups are great,” said Hennesy, “but they’re dealing with symptoms and not root causes.”

A call for change, attention

Hennesy said the area has had problems in the past, including a discarded handgun found on the block and a dog-fighting ring. In 2009, SPCA officials found two dead dogs and five injured dogs on the 200 block of E. Bringhurst St.

Hennesy says most people avoid entering the station through Bringhurst Street because of these problems. He has a friend who drives more than two miles to use the Queen Lane Station instead.

Steve Biggerstaff, assistant director of maintenance for SEPTA, said he believes the city needs tougher controls on the area. He said there is a $300 fine for dumping and repeat offenders can face jail time, but because they dump trash at remote times, it’s difficult to stop them.

“A lot of the dumping is because contractors don’t want to pay fees,” said Biggerstaff, “so they take advantage of empty lots.”

Kim Kennedy, director of rail service operations for SEPTA who previously managed Wister Station, said the adjacent lot is a problem, but cleanup efforts have improved over time.

“Our stations are cleaned up on a regular basis,” said Kennedy. “I’ve seen it come a long way.”

Edwin Nazario, a volunteer from SEPTA, said the area is one of many in the city that needs attention.

“We cleaned up a lot today. We collected two trash bags of broken glass. That’s dangerous for kids,” said Nazario. “We needed to do this. We need this kind of work all over the city.”

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