Resource ChallengeIn the 1800s, conserving Philadelphia County lands was sufficient to protect the creek. However, as development pushed outward from the city and into Montgomery County in the mid-1900s, the upper portions of the creek begged for attention.
The Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association took the lead and started to protect Montgomery County lands in earnest about a quarter century ago. It has now protected more than a 1,000 acres, the equivalent of 760 football fields.
"There's no question that the wooded areas on both sides of the creek would have been developed and water quality damaged had we not conserved them," said David Froehlich, the Association's executive director.
Examples of Key Partners
11 Montgomery County municipalities
Montgomery County & Philadelphia
Results and AccomplishmentsOn a map, the Wissahickon Creek is a ribbon of blue, ensconced by a ribbon of green-the Green Ribbon Preserve.
The Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association's preserve provides open space, scenic beauty, wildlife habitat and a trail linking communities from northern Montgomery County to Philadelphia.
The preserve also protects water quality, absorbing the pollution from storm water runoff before it reaches the stream.
"I call it the Big Sponge," said Carol DeLancey, director of special events for the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association (WVWA).
The Wissahickon Creek starts as a trickle behind the Montgomeryville Mall. From there, it flows for 22 miles, past the homes and businesses of 253,700 people, before emptying into the Schuylkill River. Along the way, it meanders through 11 Montgomery County municipalities, several Philadelphia neighborhoods and Fairmount Park.
A drinking water intake on the Schuylkill River, just a short distance downstream from the confluence with the Wissahickon Creek, serves 300,000 people.
WVWA conserves land by buying and accepting donations of land and then maintaining it. It also buys and accepts donations of conservation easements — keeping land in private ownership but with permanent restrictions on development. *
"It has been amazing," said Phoebe Driscoll, who owns conserved land along the creek and volunteers as an Association board member. "Some parcels took us 20 years to achieve."
While creek protection in Montgomery County is recent, creek conservation in Philadelphia dates back to the 1800s.