|For those not on our email list, here’s a copy of an email to membership sent out on January 16, 2022:|
Greetings and Happy New Year to all! I’m writing today with a couple of Park updates: the new split-rail fence and our various parking problems.
The New Fence
Several of you have asked why the new fence at the far end of the Park was installed. The fence blocks off the farthest creek access point that many of us have been accustomed to use. Although it is very disappointing to all of us to lose that farthest stream access, there are reasons for the change.
First, the fence is intended to prevent our dogs from wandering off Park property into neighboring private properties. Unfortunately, not all participants in the off-leash permit program are able to control and recall their dogs as the program and State Law require. When dogs leave the Park and enter private property, it calls into question the sustainability of the off-leash program. If the fence helps to keep dogs within Park limits, it will support public perception of the workability of our beloved off-leash privileges. Also, keeping the dogs within Park boundaries it will keep our dogs safer.
Second, Lower Merion is under State mandate to reduce stream pollution. West Mill Creek Park is one of the sites that has been designated to receive remedial measures including additional planting on the stream bank to reduce erosion and polluting sediments and bring us into compliance. Over the past couple of years of pandemic, foot traffic (both 2 and 4 legged) in the riparian buffer has compacted the soil and damaged existing plant life. By preventing foot traffic near the stream, the fence will help to reduce water pollution and maintain the natural beauty of the Park. As a reminder, the off-leash program rules have always stated that people and dogs are not permitted in the area between any of the split rail fences and the stream.
The good news is that the other three existing stream access points will remain open so our dogs can still play in the creek. We hope you will understand and support the Township’s decision to install the new fence which we believe will benefit our community as a whole in the long run.
As we all know, our parking lot cannot accommodate all the people who want to visit the Park, and illegal parking is creating dangerous traffic problems. Currently, the Board of Commissioners and Parks Department are actively evaluating the situation for appropriate and effective solutions. Unfortunately, the location of the Park makes finding a solution more challenging then it may seem, as there are very specific traffic safety regulations to be interpreted and multiple governmental entities involved. We are working with Commissioner Bernheim and the Parks Department on the parking issue. We will support parking improvements that will make parking easier and safer. Because the Park’s size is limited and it is already suffering from overuse, we are focusing on advocating for the creation of one or more additional dog parks to absorb the demand for this amenity rather than on major expansion of the parking lot.
We hope everyone will continue to enjoy the Park. If you arrive to find all legal parking spaces taken, Rolling Hill Park is also available for off leash dog walking, and numerous Township parks allow on-leash walks. The Township website has a list of dog-friendly parks (scroll down the page to find the list).
Four Paws ($150 or more)
Peter & Ellen Briggs
David & Beth Marks
Craig Oliner & Alyson Owen
Mana & Ken Pollack
Ellen Reese & Gary Stein
Three Paws ($100-$149)
Judy & Yair Argon
Harold Feldman & Annie Steinberg
Nora & Barry Kramer
Dori & Karl Middleman
Jen & James Sperry
Two Paws (($50-$99)
John & Barbara Barr
Iain & Mary Black
Julie & Alan Hochman
Michael & Selina Hoessly
Carolyn W. Scott
Amy & Adam Steel
Jill & Eric Sussman
Nancy Winkler & John Bryan
One Paw (up to $49)
June Lawler (?)
Every year in March, we send out a survey form with our Annual Newsletter to get member feedback and ideas. We compile every comment we receive by subject matter, then offer a response so everyone knows that their ideas were considered, whether or not they can be implemented at the time. Here they are!
Your comments: “I noticed many “new” aggressive dogs in the park lately—not sure how to teach owners to control dogs. Very crowded due to Covid!” ** “We have been daily park goers for the past 4 years and truly love the park. However, since the pandemic, we have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of dogs at the park. Also, there has been an increase of larger and more aggressive dogs at the park. Many people are not aware of the off-leash tag requirement. Could a large sign be posted on the entry gate? Could the tag permit be enforced especially on weekends?”
- On off leash permit enforcement: The Township has a number of open, unfilled paid positions as Parks Steward. Parks Stewards are not dedicated to single parks, but do permit monitoring and minor maintenance chores at all the parks. If you or anyone you know would like to take on this job, please apply! If you google Lower Merion Parks Steward that will bring you to the jobs website where the position is posted. Please note that Parks & Rec employees can request people to obtain permits and give out literature, but cannot issue citations—only the police can do that. We plan to discuss stepped-up police enforcement with the Township shortly.
- On aggression: Information about what to do if you experience or witness aggressive behavior (by dogs or people) is posted on our website under the Gettin’ Along tab. In addition, under “Etiquette” in the same tab, we have posted information on canny strategies to help reduce dog fights and other unpleasant incidents. We think these pieces are very helpful and would love it if everyone would read them!
Your comments: “Is there a way to permanently block the illegal parking that leads to the overcrowding?”** “Clarify where parking is allowed and where it is not.” ** ** “Is there any way to add parking? ** “Can you ask Gateway to allow parking when school is not in session? “**
- On blocking illegal parking and clarifying legal parking spots: Yes, illegal and dangerous parking on the grassy area at Mill Creek and Old Gulph Roads, and near the park entrance on Mill Creek Road is a problem. This Fall, the Township plans to add plantings and other landscaping that will make these areas less attractive as parking spots. In addition, they are adding “no parking” signs and have asked the police to step up parking enforcement efforts. We have also asked the Township to put up markers on the interior of the parking lot fences to help people identify parking spaces since painted parking lines aren’t an option on the gravel. This should help eliminate wasted space issues in our lot.
- On increasing our parking space: Even though all of us hate the frustration, we are not advocating for more parking spots. Because we believe our current problems with dog aggression and damage to park ecology largely result from over-usage of the space, adding spaces seems counter-productive. If you get to the park and find no legal parking space, please walk your dog elsewhere.
Your comments: “Maybe a trash can at the other end of the park.” ** “More ‘poop’ trash cans.” : “Consider placing a sign similar to that at Rolling Hill Park, stating that masks and six foot social distancing are appropriate.”
- On covid restrictions: We checked with the Township and they say that there are no masking requirements in place at this time for outdoor parks. Of course, that could change any time, and if it does we expect signage will be posted accordingly.
- On trash cans: With respect to the additional trash bin, we sympathize but are not currently recommending this. Given that we have three trash receptacles already, we feel that adding another detracts from our goal to preserve the natural atmosphere of the park as well as adding to the burden on the township maintenance crew. For now, please just carry the bag around to the receptacles nearer the park entrance. (It’s a long way for a busy park crew member to drag a heavy, stinky trash can on foot!)
Your comments: “Plant even more trees, shrubs, and perennials.” ** “The riparian area (between stream and split rail fence) is supposed to be off limits to people and dogs in order to protect against stream pollution–but trails from frequent foot traffic are appearing in it, especially right along the creek.”
Our response: YES to more plantings! Every year we walk the park with our naturalist consultant and add native plants intended to capture and filter pollutants, improve water quality, and add habitat for wildlife. As to degradation of the riparian area, we are very concerned about this. We cannot currently plant trees and shrubs to block the illegal trails because Township remediation plans to comply with State anti-pollution legislation are in process and might conflict with our planting plans. We are monitoring this situation closely.
Your comments: “Maybe stone or river rocks in the area where it gets very muddy.” ** “The loop in the back gets really muddy with rain/storm. Maybe a small path of wood chips/mulch?**
On river stones: We are advised that river stones piled on top of the muddy central area would quickly become buried in more dirt as leaves and other organic matter decompose on top of them, and they have limited ability to absorb water. Instead, we are planting native plants and trees with deep roots, which will actively absorb water, and also filter and clean the water before it enters Mill Creek.
On wood chips: We ran the idea past the Township. In their experience the wood chips are too light and will quickly wash away in our flood-prone park, so they don’t recommend this solution.
A number of people expressed interest in volunteer opportunities. We tried to respond individually to each of you, but if we goofed and missed you, don’t give up on us! All official work days will be announced by email, and if you are willing to work on your own, or have something specific in mind that you’d like to do, please do contact us.
Your comments: “The park is looking beautiful! Thanks for all the work you do.” ** *” “Thanks for the inclusive atmosphere!” ** “Thank you for all the work you do.” ** “Thanks for all you do – this is our dog’s favorite park!” ** “I am not at WMC very often – it’s a 20 minute drive – but enjoy it and appreciate all the maintenance and work put in.” ** ”Thanks for all you do!” ** “I am grateful for our wonderful leadership!”
Our response: Thanks so much for the positive feedback. It means a lot to all on our Steering Committee!
In Memoriam Karen Garbeil 1945-2021
Karen Garbeil was a member of our Friends of West Mill Creek Park Steering Committee from our founding in October 2013 to her passing in January 2021. She and her beloved Golden Retriever, Junior, visited the park almost every day. Karen was always a friendly, inclusive presence who welcomed new park visitors and park regulars alike. The following people made donations to the Friends of WMC Park in her memory:
Judy & Yair Argon, Peter & Ellen Briggs, John Bryan & Nancy Winkler, Jill Cooper, LInda Fairstone, Paul & Gloria Feldman, Judith Freeman, Bobby Harmelin, Karen Hinckley, Nora & Barry Kramer, Susie & Paul Lichtman, Beth & David Marks, George & Antoinette Oneil, Ellen Reese & Gary Stein, and Kay Sude.
Every year in March, we send out a survey form with our Annual Newsletter to get member feedback and ideas. We compile every comment we receive by subject matter, then offer a response so everyone knows that their ideas were considered, whether or not they can be implemented at the time. Here it is for 2020!
Member comments: **Continued work on water absorption and adding bird- and bee- attracting plants! ** Plant some trees in the centermost area, near the little wetland (feeder stream) area between the wooden walkway ad the path next to Mill Creek. ** Mitigate standing water issue on rainy days. ** Install drains to carry water into Mill Creek ** Maybe river stones down middle where it’s so muddy and holds water. **
Our response: We heartily endorse your planting suggestions! One of our top priorities is to continue our ongoing program to plant native trees, shrubs, and perennials. Native plants not only reduce mud by drinking up excess water, but provide a host of other benefits including enhancing water quality in the stream, reducing flooding, and providing wildlife habitat. Be aware that our park is in a floodplain and to a certain extent periodic flooding/wet spots are natural and ecologically beneficial. We are seeking a balance between park user comfort and ecological benefits, so a completely dry park is not actually a goal.
In re drains: our park has three existing drains and, for the reasons explained above, we do not plan to advocate for more at this time.
In re river stones: we are advised that river stones piled on top of the muddy central area would quickly become buried in more dirt as leaves and other organic matter decompose on top of them, and they have limited ability to absorb water. Native plants and trees with deep roots, on the other hand, will actively absorb water, and also filter and clean the water before it enters Mill Creek.
Trail Quality Concerns
Member Comments: **Can gravel be covered with wood chips? My dog avoids walking on large gravel chunks whenever she can – yes, I know she’s fussy.**
Our response: With respect to covering the lumpy parts of the gravel trail with wood chips, we ran the idea past the Township. In their experience the wood chips are too light and will quickly wash away in our flood-prone park, so they don’t recommend this solution.
Other Ecological Concerns
Member comments: ** General cleanup and invasive plants (vines) removal. **
Our response: Definitely this is part of our mission, and normally we have volunteer days for this work. Due to the pandemic, we have held no events in 2020 other than our annual October Planting day (labor courtesy of the Township Crew and socially distanced Boy Scouts from Troop 176—a big THANK YOU to both!). We are hoping to resume member volunteer days when the pandemic permits. If regular volunteer days are not an option by Spring, we may call for individual volunteers to work solo. You will need to sign a waiver form and receive training.
Member comments: ** Enforce (?) clean-up by all pet owners (add signs?) ** At least one trash bin in the back of the park.**
In re clean-up, good suggestion. We will work on signs to be placed on the pickup bag poles.
With respect to the additional trash bin, we sympathize but are not currently recommending this. Given that we have three trash receptacles already, we feel that adding another detracts from our goal to preserve the natural atmosphere of the park as well as adding to the burden on the township maintenance crew. For now, please just carry the bag around to the receptacles nearer the park entrance. (It’s a long way for a busy park crew member to drag a heavy, stinky trash can on foot!)
Suggestion for Next Year’s Annual Meeting
Member comments: What about an open meeting or talk on dog intelligence, training, owner’s expectation – from behavioral doctor at Penn Vet?
Our response: Great idea—we alternate ecology-centered and dog-centered topics at our annual meetings, and we are due for a dog-centric talk at the next meeting, whenever that can occur.
A couple of people indicated their willingness to volunteer on the survey form.
Our response: Thanks for volunteering! We expect to be in touch with all who are willing to volunteer in Spring 2021.
Member comments: ** You’re doing a very nice job! ** You are all – terrific! ** Beautiful job on Park. Thank you! ** Love the Park! ** Even though I don’t have a dog, I’d like to support the park ** Love our Park! ** I’ve never been more grateful for our park in my life!” ** Thanks for all you do – park looks great! ** Great park, thanks for your work. ** The park looks great! Stay well—**
Our response: Thanks for all the encouraging words – the positive feedback is very energizing to our Steering Committee!!!
FOUR PAWS ($150 and over)
Peter & Ellen Briggs
Bobby & Randie Harmelin
Beth & David Mark
Ellen Reese & Gary Stein
THREE PAWS ($100-$149)
Judy & Yair Argon
The Cassimatis Family
Harold Feldman & Annie Steinberg
Pam Hamilton & Steve Levy
Alan & Julie Hochman
Jill & Eric Sussman
TWO PAWS ($50-$99)
Judy & Art Axelrod
Iain & Mary Black
Kirk & Stephanie Brandon
Randy Esposito & Fotini Debonera
The Farrell Family
Linda & Bob Pitt
Jay & Marya Margolis
Helene & Kent Walker
The Wassmansdorf Family
ONE PAW (up to $49)
Christine & David Hartzell
Hank & Barbara Holmes
HONORARY or IN MEMORIAM GIFTS
In honor of Jake Alpert
|FOUR PAWS ($150 or more)|
|Peter and Ellen Briggs|
|Maria and Ken Pollack|
|Ellen Reese and Gary Stein|
|Barbara, Dan, Katy & Sam Yody|
|THREE PAWS ($100 to $149)|
|Diana and Lawrence Alpert|
|Yair and Judy Argon|
|Gary and Linda Dorey-Stein|
|Karen and Joan Garbeil|
|Michael and Selina Hoessly|
|Nora and Barry Kramer|
|Beth and David Mark|
|Karl and Dori Middleman|
|John Bryan III and Nancy Winkler|
|TWO PAWS ($50 to $99)|
|Judy and Art Axelrod|
|Mary and Iain Black|
|Glenn and Jennifer Cooper|
|Robby and Judy Freeman|
|Jay and Marya Margolis|
|Craig and Cary Sellers|
|Helene Feinberg Walker|
|Rick and Karen Wilson|
|ONE PAW (up to $49)|
|Lars Pace and Michelle Detwiler|
|David and Christine Hartzell|
|Hank and Barbara Holmes|
|Mary Anne Sheldon|
This year, member comments centered on trail improvement, mud issues, planting, hygiene and preservation of the grassy areas. Here are all the comments we received and our response:
Q#1: What projects do you think should be undertaken for the future?
Trail improvement: “Removing large pieces of gravel and finding more paw friendly alternatives”
Our response: We will continue to work with the Township on trail issues. With respect to the large less comfortable stones on the path at the far side of the park, the Township has found that trying to finish off paths using the fine gravel works on level paths but does not work on slopes, where gullies develop. We are exploring viable alternatives. Meanwhile, we have found that for humans, shoes with thicker soles help—and the dogs are free to go where they please!
Mud Problem/Planting Plans: “Center area of mucky water—plant?” ** “Less mud!” ** “Putting down stones or mulch to get rid of the mud.” ** “Mud control in far end of park near boardwalk” ** “Continue the good work on flooding & planting.” **
Our response: One of our top priorities is to continue ongoing planting efforts to reduce mud, replace tree cover, and enhance the wildlife habitat. We plan to continue our planting program, expanding to the area around the blue Dog Park sign as well as in the wildlife garden, riparian areas, and the boggy areas. We will seek out expert ecological advice on use of mulch and stones/gravel to reduce mud.
Hygiene/Grass Preservation: ** “Protection of the grassy areas.” ** “Small signs advising people to stay on the path except for poop pick-up. I’m thinking of a few signs along pathway such as “keep off the grass” signs you see around town. I believe many people come to the park who do not belong to our association and may or may not adhere to our rules and may or may not have off-leash permits for their dogs. I’ve heard people say they think they don’t need to clean up poop when it’s up on the hill or in the middle of the meadow. They do! But a little signage might reinforce rules to non-members and casual drop-in visitors.”
Our response: Good suggestions, which will be considered. FYI we consider the addition of signage something of a balancing act. The up side of signage is that it may influence behavior in a good direction; the down side is that signage tends to undermine one of our main missions which is to preserve the natural atmosphere of the park. Our experience with park signage to date suggests that its effectiveness is less that one would hope.
Amenities: “Dog water fountain and rinsing station” ** “trash can deeper in the park”
Our response: As always, when it comes to park amenities we try to balance member need, the cost and maintenance burden on the township, and our goal of maintaining the wild, “walk in the woods” feel of our park. At this time, our thinking is a more minimalist approach on such conveniences best fulfills our mission.
Q#2: Any other comments or thoughts you would like us to consider?
“Although I don’t have a dog, I support the park’s promotion of and use of native plants.” ** “Love the park and love the improvements, including the respite garden and memorial trunk.” ** “It’s a wonderful park!” ** “Thank you!” ** “Keep up the great work!” ** “Keep up the good work—well done on improving the park!” ** “Thanks for running the park.” ** ”Thanks for all you do!!” ** “Thank you for creating and maintaining a lovely respite for humans and hounds!” ** “We absolutely love the creek! Thank You.
Our response: Thanks for the positive feedback—it keeps us energized!
In 2018 we held a total of 7 official work days – three dedicated to planting and maintenance, and 4 to cutting down our ever-persistent crop of invasive Japanese Knotweed. Many, many thanks to our 14 wonderful volunteers, Judy Argon, Karen Barsotti, Ellen Briggs, Helen Chen, Art Gold, Karen Hinckley, Gary Kingaffer, June Lauer, Orsi Lazar, Linda Pitt, Ellen Reese, Mary Ann Sheldon, Christel Urmenhazi, and Helene Feinberg Walker who donated a total of 84 hours to our ongoing efforts to keep our park green and growing! We should also note that, in addition to our official work days, ad hoc volunteers donated many additional but uncounted hours to general upkeep and maintenance (mostly weeding and invasive removal). An additional thank you to you unsung heroes! And last but not least, Matt Berk, Rich Cutshall, and Gary Stein have consistently been there to help with skilled projects such as gate latch repairs and affixing signage
In 2017, our volunteers once again surpassed expectation. During the year, we held 10 formal pre-announced work days. Our work included:
- Wildlife and Respite Garden maintenance
- Control of Japanese Knotweed, an invasive plant that threatens the park’s ecological health
- Planting new native shrubs in the low lying areas of the park in an effort to reduce mud
Seventeen of our members participated in these work days. Including additional help from several young people fulfilling community service requirements, we logged a total of 134 volunteer work hours for the year! Thanks a million to member volunteers Judy and Yair Argon, Ellen Briggs, Paula Burns, David and Tal Coren, Rich Cutshall, Michelle Detwiler, Pinkie Hamilton, Karen Hinckley, Tessa Lamont Siegel, June Lauer, Max Perelman, Linda Pitt, Ellen Reese, Cary Sellers, and Elaine Stern for all their hard work. We also had a number of non-official work days so our actual volunteer work hours probably total around 160.