Wissahickon East Officially Welcomed Into Fairmount Park

 

Mark Focht, First Deputy Commissioner of Parks & Facilities, makes the Wissahickon East parcel official | Photo: Bradley Maule

Mark Focht, First Deputy Commissioner of Parks & Facilities, makes the Wissahickon East parcel official. At left, Howard Coale and Antje Mattheus of Wissahickon East Project, at right, State Representative LeAnna Washington, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Mike DiBerardinis, and Dr. Arlene Bennett | Photo: Bradley Maule

With a ribbon cutting ceremony and three hour cleanup on Saturday, dignitaries and neighbors officially welcomed the Wissahickon East into Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation system. The event formalized a hard fought victory for the East Mt. Airy coalition whose will made it happen, the culmination of 20 years’ persistence.

The six-acre plot of land, previously privately owned, was transferred to the City for inclusion in the park system last fall. The green space straddles the banks and floodplain of Cresheim Creek, whose 2.7-mile journey begins on the other side of Stenton Avenue in Montgomery County and passes through here on its way to Devil’s Pool and Wissahickon Creek.

For years the space, whose primary access point is at relatively secluded Woodbrook Lane and Anderson Street, was used as a dumping ground. On Saturday, volunteers cleared the creek of litter, debris, and washed out logs impeding the natural progress of the creek from that entry down to the trestle carrying SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill East Line. Among the items removed were several large tires, a hot water heater, a refrigerator, and a car.

The land had been owned by DeSouza Brown, a developer based in Bala Cynwyd whose work has been primarily in the Harrisburg and Lehigh Valley areas. After years of condo proposals that never happened—and a historical easement in 2006 protecting the land from development—DeSouza Brown finally donated the land to the City in October 2013.

At the western end of the parcel, Cresheim Creek passes through a culvert under SEPTA's Chestnut Hill East Line | Photo: Bradley Maule

At the western end of the parcel, Cresheim Creek passes through a culvert under SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill East Line | Photo: Bradley Maule

That easement was the result of the efforts of the Wissahickon East Project (WEP), a band of neighbors embodied by treasurer Dr. Arlene Bennett, a psychiatrist who’s lived in the neighborhood for 50 years. “It warms my heart to see this today,” she commented to a crowd just as proud to be with her. “In 15, 20 years, we can look back to this as the day we made it happen.”

Echoing her sentiments were district Councilwoman Cindy Bass, State Representative LeAnna Washington, and Parks and Recreation’s top officials, Mike DiBerardinis and Mark Focht, who worked in concert with WEP to navigate procedure and bring the parcel into City property. Focht did the honors of cutting the ribbon, flanked by the elected officials as well as WEP representatives, members from the East Mt. Airy Neighbors and Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association, and Friends of the Wissahickon executive director Maura McCarthy.

At present, a small diamond-shaped trail leads from the street to views overlooking the creek, and eventually elaborated trails will extend through the parcel. And some day, the park will include part of an uninterrupted Cresheim Trail, which currently follows the banks of Cresheim Creek from better known Wissahickon trails and terminates near the Chestnut Hill West Line at Cresheim Valley Road. That trail will continue past that train viaduct and over the trestle at Germantown Avenue (next to the Trolley Car Diner), out a right-of-way currently owned by PECO, all the way out to Fort Washington State Park.

* * *

For more info, visit the Wissahickon East Project web site HERE.

Panorama: volunteers work to clean up Cresheim Creek, the natural centerpiece to the City's newest piece of parkland | Photo: Bradley Maule

Panorama: volunteers work to clean up Cresheim Creek, the natural centerpiece to the City’s newest piece of parkland | Photo: Bradley Maule

About the author

Bradley Maule is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and the creator of Philly Skyline. He's a native of Tyrone, Pennsylvania, and he's hung his hat in Shippensburg, Germantown, G-Ho, Fishtown, Portland OR, Brewerytown, and now Mt. Airy. He just can't get into Twitter, but he's way into Instagram @mauleofamerica.



1 Comment


  1. This is great. We should have trails and preserved land all along all of the creeks in the general area. Good for all involved for cleaning it up and giving the creek back to nature.

Recent Posts
$30 Million Mixed Use Project Finally Set To Begin In Chestnut Hill

$30 Million Mixed Use Project Finally Set To Begin In Chestnut Hill

August 21, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Grocery Store and condos coming to Germantown Ave, a look at Sugarhouse’s phase 2, Awesometown living up to its name already, and an exhibit of upstate woodland scenes > more

Taking Back Taney: All-Star Little Leaguers Make Good A Sullied Name

Taking Back Taney: All-Star Little Leaguers Make Good A Sullied Name

August 20, 2014  |  Vantage

Taney Dragon fever is boiling red hot and we couldn't be prouder. Ryan Briggs looks into the name behind the team behind the street behind the gang behind the man. > more

Stay Of Execution For Furness Church On 47th

Stay Of Execution For Furness Church On 47th

August 20, 2014  |  Buzz

The West Philadelphia Church, designed by the firm of Frank Furness, was feared lost this June. But a concerted effort to save it has paid off, sources say > more

Smokin' Joe Almost Ready For Bronzin'

Smokin’ Joe Almost Ready For Bronzin’

August 20, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Boxing champion's memorial statue to be ready for April unveiling, partial building collapse in Queen Village, Roxborough residents question the viability of a Wendy's on Ridge Ave, and a talk tonight on neon signs in Philly > more

In Loft District, Upcoming Restaurant Aims To Bolster A Sense Of Community

In Loft District, Upcoming Restaurant Aims To Bolster A Sense Of Community

August 19, 2014  |  Morning Blend

The Brick & Mortar of a neighborhood, former leaders talk about closed transitional living program, expert says housing boom imminent, Convention Center labor agreement doing the trick, and inside Think Brownstone’s new Center City office > more

Saddle Up! Lacey & Phillips Building May Ride Again

Saddle Up! Lacey & Phillips Building May Ride Again

August 18, 2014  |  The Shadow Knows

The Lacey & Phillips building has sat vacant for the last eight years. With a new owner taking the reigns, there may still be another life in it yet. The Shadow gives us the history; whips, bits, spurs and all. > more