By Siani Colon, TCP Keeper
We are so proud to share this Guest Blog by Siani Colon. Siani is an active TCP Keeper and the recipient of our 2021 Watershed Milestones Friend of the Watershed Award.
As 2022 comes to close, the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF) celebrated the wins of the past year and gave thanks to the people who made it happen.
On Nov. 16, with Thanksgiving around the corner, TTF hosted a Friendsgiving feast, in place of a traditional Tacony Creek Park Keepers meeting. Every fourth Thursday of the month, volunteers and friends of the watershed meet to discuss the latest updates and concerns. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meetings have been online. For some park keepers, this dinner was an opportunity to meet other keepers in person for the first time if they have not crossed paths at events.
The dinner took place at Pan-Asian Buffet, supporting a local restaurant in a neighborhood within the watershed. As guests shared meals, stories, and laughs, the Philadelphia Water Department kicked the event off with a presentation updating park keepers on projects occurring in the watershed.
PWD is improving the section of Tacony Creek from the Rorer gateway to the Whitaker gateway by installing green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) rain gardens on the curbside of both gateways. The department is also fixing the concrete sewer outfall by Rising Sun Avenue by replacing it with rocks and boulders.
Pause. Sewage? In the watershed? If that’s new to you, PWD gave the rundown. Philadelphia has a combined sewer system. This is designed to collect stormwater, sewage, and industrial waste through a single pipeline to a water treatment facility. But on rainy days, these systems can overflow, so the surplus stormwater combined with sewage is released into local waterways. There are several outfalls in Tacony Creek. This is why repairs to this outfall are crucial.
PWD also teased the return of Rain Check. Rain Check is a program that will give you a customized plan to implement green infrastructure on your property to absorb rainwater and help reduce your water bill. This green infrastructure can take the form of rain barrels, downspout planters, and even rain gardens. To find out which program is right for you, you can take this survey.
The projects that PWD does are funded by you! So remember, when you’re paying your water bill, you’re helping to fund projects to improve our waterways.
After the Water Department’s presentation, guests looked back on the past year. It was a big year with progress made on the Master Plan which will help to transform the park, and even a visit from Chelsea Clinton.
Here are some wins of the year that park keepers and TTF staff had to share.
The River Alive Learning Trail was an interactive art exhibit at Ferko Playground in Juniata Park. This was a neighborhood-level version of the River Alive exhibition at the Independence Seaport Museum. Community members participated in workshops to build and decorate mosaic animal sculptures featuring creatures such as a fox, great blue heron, turtle, and fish. The Independence Seaport Museum also hosted “Science Saturdays,” free educational workshops incorporating the animals and the environment, on the weekends. Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former president Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also visited the Learning Trail as part of a citywide tour of programs tying playful learning to everyday places.
As part of the learning trail, TTF gave community members the opportunity to visit the main exhibit at the Independence Seaport Museum with a free trip. The last trip will take place on December 18.
To reclaim our public spaces and celebrate local artists, TTF hosted their “Birds of a Feather” event in the spring. Artist Jay Coreano, who had previously led the community cans project and painted art along the trail, produced the event. He invited several local artists to help repaint VURT Creative’s bird murals under the Whitaker Avenue Bridge, which have repeatedly been tagged. The artists also had the opportunity to sell their own art and host art-based activities for community members who attended the artistic celebration.
4. Bicycle Coalition Workshops
TTF partnered with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia to teach people how to ride a bike and hosted group rides along the trail.
This fall, TTF hosted fishing programs! Participants learned the basics such as bait and tackle selection, where to fish, and what to look for.
6. Tree Plantings
Throughout the year, TTF hosts tree plantings to help increase the tree canopy within the watershed. The organization also helps volunteers become certified tree tenders through the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society by paying the training fee. In 2022, TTF planted 53 trees.
Illegal dumping is not a new issue to the watershed, or to Philadelphia. But the issue reached a boiling point when hundreds of tires were dumped under the Whitaker Avenue gateway. TTF partnered with Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, United By Blue, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and the Philadelphia Water Department to remove these tires, which were fire hazards. Over 30 volunteers helped out to remove 9.8 tons of tires and trash.
2022 was the 10th year for TTF’s summer block party series. The event activates the trail in the evening at 3 different gateways by connecting community members to environmental resources, leading bird walks and bike rides, and hosting art activities. This year, over 300 people attended.
TTF hosted the park’s annual fall festival! Activities included live musical performances, resource tables, and art and science programs. Although the event was moved indoors due to inclement weather, attendees embraced the harvest season.
At the end of this Friendsgiving gathering, as a thank you for their contributions to the watershed, Keepers were individually acknowledged before being handed a gift of a new reusable water bottle. A perfect gift to help stay hydrated on the trails, whether for work or play.
Sometimes, Park Keepers tend to focus on the negative. It’s understandable, as we want the watershed to be the best it can be, and it’s frustrating when obstacles get in the way of that. Yet, this meeting was filled with so much joy. We can’t fix every problem overnight, but we can celebrate the progress that we have made and look forward to the positive possibilities that the future holds.
Thank you TTF and our park keepers for another successful year!
Interested in becoming part of the future of Tacony Creek Park? Contact Malcolm at 215-744-1853 or Malcolm@ttfwatershed.org.