Author Archives: Ellen Briggs

Dog Aggression

Trouble in Paradise?   Tips from Friends of West Mill Creek Park on how to handle dog aggression at the park

If you have an issue with an aggressive dog at the park . . .

  • As a first step, try a polite and civil conversation with the owner of the dog you are concerned about. Sometimes a creative solution can be found.  For instance, we had one situation that was resolved when the owner agreed to keep the dog muzzled while at the park.  Or, if the problem is not severe, the owners could try a mutual agreement to keep on opposite sides of the park, or to visit the park at different times.
  • If that does not work, especially if there is an injury to you or your dog, the next step is to notify Lower Merion Animal Control at 610-649-1000. Animal Control will send an officer to take your statement.  (Note:  The Lower Merion Department of Parks & Recreation administers the Off Leash Permit program, but they cannot take action absent a police report.)
  • After you have given a statement to the police, you can proceed to notify Donna Heller, Director of the L.M. Department of Parks & Recreation, at , or (610) 645-6220.  Parks & Rec will review the situation and, if circumstances warrant, may revoke the off leash permit of the offending dog.
  • In all cases where there has been an injury to a person or dog, it is a good idea to document that with photos and/or a visit to the doctor or vet (as the case may be).

If you are the owner of a dog that may have injured another dog or person at the park . . .

  • After the dogs are safely separated, best practice is to contact the other owner, ask whether owner and dog are ok, and where appropriate offer to pay for any damage caused. This can be very hard because both you and the other owner may be upset, but apologies or expressions of concern go a long way to ease tensions and promote a civil atmosphere at the park.
  • Just because you have an incident does not mean your dog’s off leash permit can or should be revoked.  Accidents happen.  But remember .  .  .  NOT ALL DOGS ARE SUITABLE FOR OFF LEASH DOG PARKS. A dog may be a fine dog and a beloved family member, but still not a good candidate for off leash privileges in a public park.

Role of Friends of West Mill Creek Park

To keep our dog park a friendly and welcoming place, concerns about habitually aggressive dogs must be addressed.  Our policy is to rely on the police and township to referee disputes over dog aggression.

  • Our organization is not trained or equipped to arbitrate disputes among dog park visitors. Our role in this area is strictly limited to providing educational information to help people resolve issues as amicably as possible through the proper channels.
  • We cooperate with any inquiries about aggressive dog incidents from the police or the Lower Merion Department of Parks and Recreation.

See also our companion brochure, “Etiquette:  10 Tips for a Great Dog Park Experience,” for some really good general guidelines on avoiding common dog park problems.  Copies are usually available in the kiosk, and it is also available under the “Gettin’ Along” tab on our website.

2018 Donations

FOUR PAWS ($150 or more)

Peter & Ellen Briggs

Anne Hamilton

Beth & David Mark

THREE PAWS (($100 to $149)

Judy & Yair Argon

Jay Bryan & Nancy Winkler

John & Jessica Cassimatis

Richard Hamilton

Karen Hinckley

Michael Hoessly

Ellen Reese & Gary Stein

Eileen Rosenau

Kay Sude

Sherry & Lewis Wexler

Karen Zimmerman & David Preefer

TWO PAWS (($50 to $99)

Arthur & Judy Axelrod

Iain & Mary Black

Karen & Joan Garbeil

Jill Cooper

Joan Logue

Hazel Murphy

Jay & Marya Margolis

Jill Sussman

Christel Urmenyhazi

Mark & Sonya Wassmansdorf

Rick & Karen Wilson

ONE PAW (< $49)

Janice Asher

Michelle Detwiler & Lars Pace

Mary Field

Helene Walker





2018 Survey Results Are In!

2018 Friends of West Mill Creek Annual Member Survey

This year, member comments centered on trail improvements, safety, new planting, adding seating, and additional conveniences.  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:  “We need gravel on the path from the entrance to the creek.  It is always muddy” ** “Finish the stone path on the creek side of the park”  ** “Pathway repair to encourage people to stay on the paths and protect the park.” ** “Replace the upper rock path after the board walk with smaller, more dog friendly rocks.  I find myself avoiding the rock path, and walking on the side.  My dog does also.”** “Adding new stones to low-lying muddy are near wooden walkway.”

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 don’t have an alternative at this time.  However, we have found that shoes with thicker soles helps.

Planting:  “Work with Township to replace fallen trees” ** “Continue planting to reduce mud and improve wildlife habitat.” ** “I love the Ellens’ recent idea of planting flowers at the base of the Mill Creek Dog Park sign—perhaps pachysandra or something that might stay lush year round.” ** “More planting of trees and shrubs, especially in the riparian area.” ** “Additional plantings for beauty and muddy area control, especially for repairing the riparian area.”**”I think a simple solution to the super-marshy lowland area in the middle of the loop is essentially making it a “bioswale”.  Essentially water sucking vegetation that can be bought cheap and en masse.  This will serve to dry out the area and help keep some mud off the more adventurous dogs.” ** “Consider other areas where wildflower seeds can be spread to make the park rich in cool plants and flowers.” ** “For immediate gratification, more flowering native plants would be nice.  However, a wiser investment would be planting trees as recommended by the speaker from Longwood Gardens at the annual meeting.”  **”Continued work to even better control the flooding problem would be great.”

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 will soon be doing planting under the Dog Park sign as well as in the wildlife garden, riparian areas, and the boggy areas.

Safety:There are a few spots that dogs can get out of the park too easily.  A “false” path leads up to that busy road.  Can it be blocked or fencing put in at the top of the path?  Also there is a rock and dirt pile high enough for a dog to climb and reach the road near the entrance.” **”More protective fencing in areas above creek to keep dogs in if they cross over creek and climb up towards the squash club, and anywhere to make it completely closed in and safe.” **”Do you suppose there is anything we can do as a group re the intersection of Old Gulph and Mill Creek Roads?”

Our response:  Regarding park fencing, the path that leads up to Mill Creek Road is a Bridlewild Trail and cannot be blocked off.  As to the rock/dirt pile near the entrance, we have been discussing this with the Township for some years and there is some concern that excavating the pile will destabilize the wall.  We are thinking of trying to plant a thick hedge around this area that would discourage dogs from running up there.  We take dog safety seriously and in the past we added the entrance gate and extended existing park fencing for this reason.   But unfortunately WMC Park cannot be completely fenced.  We are planning to post signage that provides a warning to help ensure that all park users understand this.  For those who cannot rely on their dog’s recall skills, there is a completely fenced dog park area at Rolling Hill Park.

** Regarding the intersection of Old Gulph and Mill Creek Roads, we contacted our Commissioner, Dan Bernheim.  Dan contacted Officer Michael Sullivan, who deals with traffic issues at the L.M. Police Department, on our behalf.  Officer Sullivan has told us that traffic signs and signals are subject to both Federal and State regulation.  Under those regulations, neither traffic volume at the intersection nor incidence of relatable crashes qualify the intersection for an added stop sign or other traffic control device.  He also told us that studies have shown that stop signs put up where people don’t expect them can actually cause more accidents than they prevent.  So — added traffic signals at Old Gulph and Mill Creek is not an option for us at this point.  Be cautious at the intersection!

Seating:  “Big stones for sitting at each stream entrance spot.”

Our response:  We are all for this idea and will actively try to find additional sitting stones.  (Turns out that rocks of the appropriate size are getting very difficult to find—last year we visited several quarries and found a total of two suitable stones which we placed at The Deep/North Beach.)

Additional conveniences:  “Water station—fountain and dog water spout” ** “A hose to spray muddy dogs at the parking lot” ** “Addition of hose and spray nozzle at park entrance to wash off muddy pups!”

Our response:  Unfortunately, running water in the park is impracticable at this time.

Hygiene:  “Some persuasive educational approach to encourage dog owners to pick up their dogs’ poop–even when it’s off the path (since it goes into the watershed).

Our response:  We have created a brochure on this subject that is available at the kiosk and on our website, and we issue reminders at our annual meeting and in our annual newsletter.  We are very concerned about this and would welcome suggestions that would further address this issue!

Q#2:  Any other comments or thoughts you would like us to consider?

“Love the stones at the North Beach.” **  “I LOVE THIS DOG & PEOPLE COMMUNITY!  THANK YOU.”  ** “We are appreciative of all the efforts that are being made on behalf of the Park.”  ** “Thank you all very much for creating a sanctuary for dogs and their humans.  We are all most appreciative.” ** “Thanks for all that you do for people and pets!” ** “Thanks for all you do!”

Our response:  Thanks for the positive feedback – and we agree it’s all the dogs and all the people together as a community that makes our park so special.

Survey Results Are In!

2017 Friends of West Mill Creek Park Survey Results

  1. What projects do you think should be undertaken in the future?


Member survey comments:  “Try to keep the park from having “mud pits” near boardwalk and between bench and entrance to creek.” ** “Get rid of the mud!”  ** “More planting in center area to prevent “mudholes”—and would love more shrubbery to attract birds.”

Our response:  Our number one priority is trying to address the mud in a way that benefits both ecological and practical concerns. 

We have begun our campaign to reduce mud in an ecologically friendly way begun by planting bog-tolerant shrubs around the mud hole near the long boardwalk.  If the shrubs grow and flourish, they should keep the dogs out of the water. We intend to keep on planting with the goal of providing food and cover to wildlife while keeping our dogs cleaner.   Please note that we are moving ahead with this project in small increments rather than a mass planting effort all at once because these are difficult planting conditions and we expect to learn a lot by trial and error. 

We hope you will understand that our park is in a floodplain, and part of its important ecological function is to absorb and filter storm water before it reaches the creek.  Also, the seasonal pools of standing water are necessary to the reproduction of park amphibians, which in turn help control insect populations.  Therefore, diverting all storm water directly into Mill Creek so that the park is always dry underfoot is not one of our goals; rather, we will try to strike a happy medium between ecological and practical concerns.


Member survey comments:  “The stone pathways are not holding up.  The wooden walkway is much better.  Either extend the wooden walkway all the way round or add stone/metal/plastic frames for the gravel portion and add more gravel.”  ** “Finish covering larger stones on path with small stones to protect dogs’ paws.”

Our Response:  Parks & Rec tells us that extending the wooden walkway around the park is not practicable because of the high groundwater levels.  Containing the gravel by adding frames is not a viable solution either.  Because of the high volume of water runoff that flows over the park, the gravel moves, either burying the frame and making it useless, or leaving the frame projecting out of the ground which creates a tripping hazard.  Similarly, finishing off the rocky part of the path is not an option.  Parks & Rec has tried to do this kind of project in the past.  They have found that the fine finishing gravel (which works pretty well on the flat parts of the path) isn’t effective on the sloping paths.  It gets carved into gullies and then ultimately washes away.


Member survey comments:  “A bench down near beach spot past the weed penitentiary area.  A lot of people come down there to let dogs swim – maybe 2 rustic log-type benches.  There is plenty of room.”

Our response:  Great idea!  We are currently discussing this with Parks & Rec.


Member survey comment:   “Marking of parking spaces in the lot to maximize the number of cars.”

Our response:  Great idea!  We are currently discussing this with Parks & Rec.


Member survey comments“I would like more money spent on enclosing the area.  My dogs are ok but friends won’t come because they do not feel the property is secure.” **  “We have heard there’s a hole in stone wall that dogs can get through.  Can this get checked out and repaired?”

Our response:   We are very supportive of all reasonable measures to improve safety.  We are currently looking at the possibility of some additional fencing and/or the planting of shrub hedges in areas of particular concern.  However, it is important for everyone to understand that it not possible to enclose the park completely.  Fencing cannot be installed either across the stream or in the area where the stream may flood while carrying debris.   West Mill Creek Park is suitable only for those dogs whose owners can trust them off leash.  A completely fenced area is available at Rolling Hill Park for dogs with less reliable recall skills. 

As far as a hole in the stone wall, we aren’t aware of one, though there was an opening between the fence and stone wall that has been dealt with by the independent efforts of one of our members.


Member survey comment “Periodic checks of creek’s toxicity.”

Our responseWe spoke to the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Lower Merion Conservancy about this concern.  The Lower Merion Conservancy monitors water quality in our stream monthly for indications of ecological stream health such as levels of dissolved oxygen and number of macro invertebrates living in the stream.  The state department of natural resources also monitors for stream health from time to time.  Tom Clark, Conservation Coordinator at the Lower Merion Conservancy, offered the opinion that the stream, while polluted from the point of view of ecological stream health, is not necessarily detrimental to dog health.  He also noted that if we observe a “fish kill” (numerous fish floating on the surface) that is an indication of toxicity that definitely would be of concern for canine health. Finally, he noted that pollution levels are highest during and just after storms with lots of runoff entering the creek.

Mill Creek water is not safe for human consumption.  No one we talked to is aware of any particular test for toxicity to dogs, but many of our canine dog park regulars have been drinking the water for their entire lifetimes with no apparent ill effects.   If you are concerned, we suggest discussing this issue with your veterinarian. 

To keep our stream (and all waterways in Lower Merion) as clean as possible, remember that chemical lawn fertilizers, pesticides, pollutants from cars, de-icing salt and yes, dog poop, are the most significant sources of stream pollution in our area.  Dispose of all dog poop in the trash, and use chemical fertilizers, pesticides,  and de-icing salt as little as possible (none at all would be great!)

Member survey comment“Some people do not clean up after their dogs.  I’ve heard people say – “It’s not on the path” – but they need to clean up anywhere in the park including sides and middle.”

Our response:  You are so right!  Dog poop is a major source of stream pollution and threatens the health of people and animals that use the stream.  We hope all West Mill Creekers will take a look at our “Poop FAQs” sheet that is available on our website under the “Gettin’ Along” tab and in brochure form in the park kiosk.  It answers a lot of the questions people have asked us in the past on this issue so please take a look!


Member survey comment: “Irises along the edge of the stream.” 

Our response:  Irises would be lovely!  We are discussing feasibility with the member who suggested this. 

  1. Any other comments or thoughts you would like us to consider?

Member comments:  “Love the way the Respite Garden has filled out!  Love the improved walking area—reduced mud and mud puddles.” **“You are doing a wonderful job!” ** “The Park looks beautiful!” ** “Thanks for all you do!”  **“Thank you and our leadership for helping make the dog park a memorable part of our lives.” ** “You are doing a great job!!” ** “Thank you for everything you do for the park and for building community in our area!”  ** “ No dog but I love the dog park.  You have done an awesome job!”

Our response:  Positive feedback is extremely encouraging and energizing to all on the Steering Committee.  We thank all those volunteers and contributors who have helped make this happen and we also thank our survey respondents for the supportive comments on our efforts—we really appreciate it!


Bad News, Good News

Bad news first:  As some of you know, a few days ago in the early afternoon, thieves smashed the window of a car parked in our Friends of WMC parking lot and stole a purse and cellphone.  So, do be careful!  (The advice of our police department is:  if you must bring valuables to the park, try to take them with you or keep them out of sight.)

Now for some happier news:

Newly planted bog hedge, April 2017

WMC volunteers began work on our plan  to plant bog-loving shrubs in or around low-lying areas in the main park.  If the new plants thrive we will reduce our muddy-dog quotient while improving the park ecology.   Our first set of shrubs (pussywillow, itea virginica, and summersweet) is planted around the notable mud hole near the long boardwalk.   Please wish our new shrubs health and long life,  and do try to steer your dogs away from them while they are getting established if you can!

Judy, Ellen R, Ellen B, and Karen H with canine supervisors Brodie and Lizzie

In addition, our April 15 Wildlife and Respite Garden work day resulted in major gains in our battle against the weeds — also a lot of fun.  Later we planted a large number of Black Eyed Susans to brighten up the Wildlife Garden in midsummer.

2016 Volunteers

Volunteer Work Day Projects in 2016

Michelle, Paula, Ellen, Linda and Pinkie at a 2017 Garden Work Day

Our first project, begun three years ago, was the creation of the Wildlife and Respite Garden in the fenced area adjacent to the parking lot.  In 2016, we continued maintenance and planting of this area.  Our watering team kept the garden going during the severe drought, and additional volunteers kept after the weeds, cut back overgrown sedge, and did some more planting.

For the first time in 2016, we expanded our ecological efforts to the main park and held three work days centered on invasive plant removal –specifically,  Japanese Knotweed.  Knotweed crowds out many beneficial plants and is extraordinarily difficult to control.  We succeeded in cutting and removing 700 pounds of knotweed from the park!

Altogether 22 volunteers contributed 92 hours at our work days.  Thanks go to Judy Argon; Julian, Susan, and Paul Brenman; Ellen and Stephen Briggs; Paula Burns; Chris Bushnell; Daniel Cohen; Michelle Detwiler; Mary Field; Pinkie Hamilton; Bobby Harmelin; Karen Hinckley; Hazel Murphy;  Linda Pitt; Ellen Reese; Elaine Stern; and Mark Wassmansdorf.

Knotweed Penitentiary

In addition, freelancer members Rich Cutshall and Craig Oliner spent uncounted hours clearing trails and removing debris.  Rich even made us our Knotweed Penitentiary, where cut knotweed may be stored without danger of re-rooting itself into the park lands.

2017 Donations


Four Paws ($150 or more)

Anne & Matt Hamilton

Bobby & Randie Harmelin

Jay & Marya Margolis

Marsha Perelman

Ellen Reese & Gary Stein

Peter & Ellen Briggs

Three Paws ($100 to $149)


Judith & Yair Argon

Brenman Family

Karen Hinckley

Michael & Selina Hoessly

Sharon McGinley

Hazel Murphy

Shelly Phillips

Maria Pollack

David Preefer & Karen Zimmerman

Eileen Rosenau

Karl & Dori Middleman

Kay Sude

Two Paws ($50 to $99)

Judy & Art Axelrod

John & Barbara Barr

Mary & Iain Black

John Cassimitis

Glenn & Jennifer Cooper

Michelle Detwiler & Lars Pace

Linda Fairstone

Karen & Joan Garbeil

Susan Lichtman

Joan Logue

Karyn Lush

Marilyn Steiner

Helen Feinberg Walker & Kent Walker

Sherri & Lewis Wexler

Rich & Karen Wilson

The Yody Family

One Paw (up to $49)

Janice Asher

Amy Cohen & Tom Waniewski

Lee Dante

Mary Field

Martha Lombardo

John Newhall

Christel Urmenyhaz

Flaura Winston

Knotweed Day #2

Knotweed Day, June 2016

Knotweed is a noxious invasive plant that vigorously self-plants itself in moist areas, degrades the ecosystem, and ultimately promotes soil erosion on stream banks.  At this annual event, we cut the plants to the ground and dispose of the stems, giving the “good guy” plants a better chance to take over the territory.  Wear long pants and long sleeves, and bring gloves!  Come and go as you please.  Water and Kind bars will be available.

Santa Paws Came To Town

Santa Paws with Brownie and Baxter

Santa Paws once again took time from his busy schedule to visit all the good dogs at West Mill Creek on Sunday, December 18!   It may have been a little overcast and a lot muddy, but the dogs enjoyed the dog biscuit and the chance to give Santa their wish lists, and the people enjoyed some hot cocoa and doughnuts to keep out the damp.  Moreover, we raised $435 for the Pennsylvania S.P.C.A!  Thanks to all who participated–including Giant supermarket which generously donated the doughnuts.

Park News, October 2016

A couple of news items:

p1000219Tree Safety.  A number of our members have expressed concern  about the erosion under the large tree across the stream at the beach area.  We asked the Township to take a look, and the Township Arborist and Parks Supervisor evaluated the tree.  The Arborist says the tree has enough healthy root system so that it does not present an immediate danger.  The township will continue to monitor the situation and will deal with the tree if it becomes hazardous.

New Kiosk October 2016

New Kiosk October 2016

New Kiosk.  The Township kindly offered us a new kiosk paid for from special Township funds dedicated to park improvements.  In addition to Township postings relevant to our Park, we will be permitted to use part of the space for Friends of West Mill Creek postings.  The new kiosk also has space for brochures, off-leash permit application forms, and other useful information.  Thanks as always to Lower Merion Department of Parks & Recreation!!!

Fencing Across the Creek by Old Gulph Road.  No picture because  it’s hard to see, but fyi the safety fence across the creek on Old Gulph Road is complete and doing its job!  Thanks to the gracious cooperation of our neighbor, The Courts, we were able to install this fence to keep our dogs from running onto the Courts parking lot or the busy street.  (More info about the safety fence appears in the previous What’s New post, if you missed it.)