Starting July 1, the Upper Valley Green Road parking lot will be closed for a construction and restoration project meant to stabilize the nearby streambank of the Wissahickon Creek and repair the parking lot.

While this may be an inconvenience to park visitors, Maura McCarthy, executive director of Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW), urges park lovers to keep the bigger picture in mind. The project is designed to ultimately improve the health of the Wissahickon and its watershed.

 

"The reason this park exists is to protect our drinking water," said McCarthy. "[The Wissahickon Creek] is an extremely important water source for our city. We hope people can bear with us during this construction process."

FOW is spearheading the near half a million dollar project in partnership with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Philadelphia Water Department. The first phase of the two-part project will take place from July 1 to September 30. The dates of the second phase are still undetermined.

Phase one of the project will involve stabilizing the streambank along the parking lot, which will entail the installation of rock steps and the removal of invasive species to make way for native vegetation.

Visitors have already begun encountering limited parking as preparations for the work begin. As of July 1, the parking lot will be closed. However, the two parking lots closest to Valley Green Inn will be available for customers with disabilities or families with small children.

There will be an extra park ranger patrolling the area and ticketing anyone who parks in non-designated areas. FOW is encouraging visitors to the park to use alternative parking lots in the Wissahickon.

This may be the busiest time of the year for the park but the Department of Environmental Protection is more concerned with protecting the creek. The DEP has dictated that construction can only happen from June to September to protect the trout-stocked creek.

Crews can't work on the stream channel when it's raining or wet. So, the timeline of the project depends on the weather this summer, said McCarthy.

The removal of invasive vegetation and re-integration of native plants will be an ongoing process. Currently, plants like Japanese Knotweed are pervasive. Native vegetation will help keep the ecosystem healthy by attracting native insects, birds, and other animals up the food chain.

"You are more likely to see a healthy, vibrant community" with the restoration of native plants, said McCarthy.

And a healthier streambank means a healthier creek, which will trickle down to cleaner water in the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers. The entire Northwest portion of the city gets its drinking water from the Schuylkill.

After the streambank is restored, the second phase will focus on resurfacing the parking lot.

FOW will be providing weekly updates on Facebook and Twitter.