Elkins Park, PA…A little rain in late June did not deter community members, streamkeepers and volunteers from hiking sections of the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford (TTF) Watershed to see first-hand the impact of the Jenkintown Creek Restoration Project.
The effort, which began in 2014, has brought together more than 1,000 volunteers and support from schools, universities, and profit and nonprofit organizations. This coordinated project along the Jenkintown Creek Tributary includes restoration of streambanks and their adjacent buffers, the installation of rain gardens, and the planting of thousands of shrubs, trees and plants, which ultimately will positively impact water quality in the watershed. The project was awarded the 2017 Excellence in GSI Award, which recognizes high quality design and construction of green stormwater infrastructure.
The 3.7 mile tour of Abington Township sites included: Ethel Jordan Park, McKinley Elementary School, Sisters of St. Basil the Great and Manor College, Alverthorpe Park, Abington Friends School and Abington Friends Meeting. The tour provided an opportunity to educate stakeholders and members of the community about the factors that impact water quality and the variety of environmentally sound solutions implemented to help restore the health of the watershed. Attendees learned about past projects and those that are currently in the proposal stage. In addition to TTF staff and volunteers, graduate students from Temple and Villanova Universities explained the work that they were doing to support the project.
Water Quality and the Jenkintown Creek
The primary source of water pollution in the TTF Watershed is stormwater runoff. When rainwater or melting snow flows over impervious surfaces rather than seeping into the ground, it deposits debris, bacteria, trash and chemicals collected from parking lots, roofs and other hard surfaces into storm drains and eventually settles into creeks and rivers. Runoff also erodes stream banks. The combination of pollutants and eroded dirt muddies the water and causes problems downstream.
Addressing the Impacts of Stormwater Runoff
The TTF Watershed Partnership’s Jenkintown Creek Restoration Project is a shining example of effectively addressing water quality issues. Not only was the partnership able to successfully mobilize hundreds of volunteers and garner the support of agencies and organizations, it was able to implement solutions that in some cases required the participation of private landowners.
At each site, newly planted trees, shrubs and other vegetation were visible. These plantings created buffers along the creek to slow down and filter out pollution from runoff and provide habitat for wildlife and help protect stream banks against erosion.
Featured at Ethel Jordan Park, Alverthorpe Park, Abington Friends Meeting and Abington Friends School were rain gardens, vegetated or landscaped depressions designed with an engineered soil layer that promote stormwater infiltration into the underlying soil.
Through the tour, Jule Slavet, TTF Executive Director, and tour leader, Susan Harris, spoke to the group about the pivotal role volunteers played, and will continue to play in protecting local waterways. “Water systems are connected. Oil from a car is not going into pipes and treated, it is going into a creek that is flowing into the Delaware River – which happens to provide half of our neighbors in Philadelphia with their drinking water,” stressed Slavet.
Susan Myerov, Program Director, Watersheds, PA Environmental Council, who also participated in the tour, acknowledged the role that volunteers played in the Jenkintown Creek Restoration Project. “These projects rely on the participation of community volunteers who help plant trees, clean up debris, install protective fencing and monitor the water quality. There are many opportunities throughout the region to get involved; this is just one of them,” Myerov emphasized.
Maintaining the Health of the Watershed
Organizers provided tips for protecting the watershed, which should be considered by all community members. They are as follows:
Help pick up trash in your neighborhood and place storm drain markers on your street.
Use compost or organic fertilizer instead of store-bought brands. Also, do not apply fertilizer before a rainstorm. Wait until the weather is clear and preferably apply during the fall.
Let your grass grow, it will develop stronger roots and increase the health of your lawn.
Use a rain barrel at home. Rain barrels capture rain from rooftops so that it can be released in drier weather, reducing the amount of runoff into nearby storm sewer systems. Although not drinkable, rain barrel water can be used in your gardens or to wash your car or tools.
Become a streamkeeper, a specially trained volunteer who assists in monitoring and recording data from their part of the watershed and act as advocates for clean water in their communities.
Since 2014, the Jenkintown Creek Restoration Project has constructed 3 rain gardens, built 100 feet of bioretention swales, installed 1,500 feet of stream buffer, and planted over 3,500 plants. For more information on the work of Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership and how to get involved, please visit www.ttfwatershed.org.