AMBLER — Hundreds of Earth lovers came out Saturday morning simply to do good, as the 51st annual Wissahickon Creek Clean Up attracted more than 400 people to improve the watershed.
“This is one of my favorite events of the year because it’s one day people throughout the watershed, from Lansdale to Philadelphia, -- everyone comes out and shows their love for the creek. Nothing feels better than that,” said Wissahickon Trails Executive Director Gail Farmer. “It’s very exciting to be able to see people … taking care of the Wissahickon Creek.”
The event took place in the days following Earth Day. Volunteers were positioned along the entire watershed, which spans from Lansdale to Fort Washington.
Farmer said people have found candy wrappers, shopping carts, parts of refrigerators, and decorative lawn flamingos along the banks of the Montgomery County creek.
While Wissahickon Trails focuses on Montgomery County areas, Farmer added that the nonprofit joined forces with Friends of the Wissahickon, who are charged with tending to Wissahickon Valley Park in Philadelphia.
“So this is a day where they mobilize their community of volunteers, and we’re working together to get that sort of communitywide partnership for everybody who cares about the Wissahickon,” she said.
Participants were treated to a sunny sky and spring-like temperatures as several participants pulled into the parking lot of the Four Mills Nature Preserve to retrieve their gloves, bags and tongs as they set on on their trek to pick up garbage along the portion of the Wissahickon Creek.
A trio of volunteers recovered a mattress in the event’s early hours.
“I think there’s always a ‘feel good value’ when you see other people taking action to care for something that you also care about -- it creates a connection,” Farmer said.
For Renee Creighton, and her children Kieran, 9, and Kailyn, 5, participating in Saturday’s clean-up was something they were eager to do.
“We got so much enjoyment out of this, and we felt like it’s also our responsibility to be good stewards, and to teach our children stewardship,” Creighton said. “We want to help clean up but we also want to teach our children the same: that we’re getting enjoyment out of it but we are meant to take care of it. Who’s gonna do it if not us?”
Shane Troyano and her 9-year-old daughter Smith agreed. They all came to enjoy the local nature preserve in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic all thanks to a Google search.
Wissahickon Trails pushed the annual cleanup last year until September 2020 due to the pandemic. Participants practiced several health and safety guidelines including wearing masks and social distancing.
Those same guidelines remained in effect for the 2021 event.
“For me, I think what’s important is for people to feel connected to the Wisshaickon, and to the beautiful, natural spaces we have, and the more connected and attached they feel to it, they’ll come back next year, and they’ll want to do it again,” Farmer said.
That appeared to be the case for the Creightons and Troyanos.
Troyano, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, added that she’s helped clean up other natural areas over the past week, and she stressed how important it is for people to come together.
“You see how many people come out and how many people really care,” Troyano said.
“I like picking up trash,” Smith said.
When asked why she was looking forward to cleaning up the waterway, Smith was candid in her reply.
“Because it saves the world,” she said.
That’s a sentiment that Farmer also hopes to instill in trailgoers who take advantage of the many resources that Wissahickon Trails has to offer.
“We have some great natural resources and [natural] places in our community, but we only have them if people care for them and prioritize them,” Farmer said. “So this is a part of helping people feel that connection so they’ll continue to take action and support our natural resources.”