Category Archives: What’s New

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?

MUD

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.

TRAILS

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.

SEATING

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.

PARKING

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.

SAFETY FENCING

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.

WATER QUALITY

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!

AESTHETICS

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!

THANKS TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED FOR RESPONDING TO OUR 2017 SURVEY!

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.)

Park News, Summer 2016

Lots of news this summer. . .

New Safety Fence!  Our biggest news item is the soon-to-be-installed s

canstockphoto thank you

afety fence that will run along Old Gulph Road and along the bank of the creek opposite the beach area.  This  black wire fence  should be almost invisible to preserve the natural aesthetics of our park. It is intended to stop dogs who cross the creek in the beach area from running directly out onto Old Gulph Road.  (Sorry, we cannot fence the entire park, but we believe the placement of the new fence will provide a significant safety improvement.)  Thanks to your generous donations, Friends of West Mill Creek Park will pay for the 100% of the fence.   Another big thank you is due to our neighbor, The Courts, the tennis club that owns the property on the other side of the creek.  The Courts graciously cooperated in this project by allowing the fence to be placed on their property.

New park sign 2016New Sign.  If you’ve been to the park recently, you will have noticed our spiffy new “Welcome to West Mill Creek” sign.  It has received lots of positive feedback.  Thanks Lower Merion Department of Parks & Rec!  You may be interested to know that the sign results from a  job skills training program in our Montgomery County prison system.  The prisoners designed and manufactured the sign and we think it shows that they have a lot of artistic talent and know-how.  Great job guys!

Trash can corral made by Paul Lewis, Eagle Scout candidate, for our park

New Trash Can Corrals.  Many thanks, once again, to the Boy Scouts for our handsome new trash can corrals.  The corrals will keep the cans from tipping over and also provide an aesthetic upgrade.  They come to us courtesy of Paul Lewis of Boy Scout Troop 71 (Merion Liberty Troop).  Paul worked with Parks Supervisor Dave Deangelis to design, build and install the corrals as his Eagle Scout project.  Thanks Paul and Dave!

We Love Your Input.  If you have an idea for a future project or event, please let us know.  You can either speak to someone on the Steering Committee or send us an email via the Contact Us tab on the website.  Our projects have frequently originated from member suggestions, or received a boost up the priority list based on your feedback, so please participate!

Want to Support the Friends of WMC?  We hope that you are pleased with all our progress this year.  If you would like to support the new safety fence and  future projects, it’s not too late to make a donation and become an official 2016 Contributing Member of Friends of West Mill Creek Park.   See the “Get Involved!” tab on this website for  information.

Spring 2016 Park News

We have lots of news, big and small, since our last newsletter.

Trail improvements under construction

Trail improvements under construction

TRAIL IMPROVEMENTS!  The most exciting news is, improvements to the final muddy section of our trail are under way.  Soon we will have dry footing on the entire loop trail.  Many, many thanks to Lower Merion’s Dept of Parks & Recreation for addressing the Number One project on our members’ wish list.

Our Little Herb Garden -- Help yourself to some leaves on your way home!

Our Little Herb Garden — Help yourself to some leaves on your way home!

FREE FRESH HERBS.  If, as you head home from the park to fix dinner, you’d like a bit of basil, parsley, dill, or oregano, help yourself from the herb pot in the Wildlife Garden, just inside the garden gate.  Just remember to leave enough on the plant so it can keep on growing through the summer.  And there are gallon jugs of water next to it, so if the pot is looking dry, feel free to water it.

KNOTWEED WORK DAY REPORT.  During 3 work days in early June (two scheduled and one ad hoc to finish up), 11 Friends of WMC members spent 58 hours pulling out Japanese Knotweed, an invasive plant that increases stream erosion and crowds out wildlife friendly plants.  A big thank you to Julian and Paul Brenman, Ellen and Stephen Briggs, Paula Burns, Michelle Detwiler, Mary Field, Karen Hinckley, Hazel Murphy, Ellen Reese, and Elaine Stern.  We cleared the fenced off riparian area from the park gate all the way down to the second stream access point.  There’s more to do in the final fenced section from the second stream access trail to the end of the park (and elsewhere).  Email us (use the Contact Us tab on this website)  for instructions if you would like to continue this work.

The Ellens, with Lizzie, victorious on a knotweed pile

WEEDING WEDNESDAYS.  We scheduled three garden workdays to weed and cut back overgrown sedge.  We got lots of work done at the first one but there are two more, on June 22 and June 29,  if you’d like to help.  We are sending notices about this only to those who have expressed interest in working as a garden volunteer.  If you would like to be included on that list, just shoot us an email.  Also, garden workdays are always listed on the website so you can check for details there if you’d like to join in.

Garden Award and Volunteer Opportunity

The Ellens accept the Friends of West Mill Creek Park "Go for the Green" award from Brian Hoppy of EAC

The Ellens accept the Friends of West Mill Creek Park “Go for the Green” award from Brian Hoppy of EAC

The Friends of West Mill Creek Park has won a Go for the Green Award!  Lower Merion Township’s Environmental Advisory Council has given us this award to recognize the ecological and educational benefits of our Wildlife and Respite Garden to the Township and our work in creating and maintaining the garden.  The Go for the Green Awards program will be held on Thursday, May 12, 2016 at the Appleford Estate, located at 770 Mt. Moro Road in
Villanova, beginning at 6 p.m. If you haven’t seen Appleford, it’s a lovely historic house and garden, well worth a visit in its own right.  Anyone who would like to attend is welcome to come and cheer us on.

And that brings to mind that gardening season is here!  If you are interested in being on the Wildlife Garden watering team or garden team, please send an email to briggs505@verizon.net and  specify watering, gardening, or both.  This will not commit you to anything—it will just put you on the list of people who will receive email regarding appeals for watering, weeding or planting help in the garden.  This way, we will not be bothering people who don’t want to participate in ongoing maintenance with garden-related email.

Note:  When the need arises for a big work day, such as an invasive plant removal project on the stream bank, we will notify the entire membership.

January 2016 Member Survey Results

survey clip art

Q#1:  Should a gate be installed on the entrance path between the parking lot and the main park?

Strongly agree:  65.71%

Agree:  14.29%

Neutral:  17.14%

Disagree:  2.86%

Strongly Disagree:  0.00%

Q#2:  Would you be willing to donate to finance construction of the gate described in Q#1?

77% of respondents (27 people) said Yes.

Q#3:  Should fencing be installed on the far side of the creek near East Old Gulph Road to deter dogs from running onto the road?

Strongly agree:  48.57%

Agree:  11.43%

Neutral:  31.43%

Disagree:  2.86%

Strongly Disagree:  5.71%

Q#4:  Would you be willing to donate to finance construction of the fence described in Q#3?

53% of respondents (18 people) said Yes.

Q#5 :  Are there any other important projects you would like Friends of WMC to pursue?

  • maybe another picnic table or several more benches along the walkways
  • The recent drainage project is working well. Other areas of the path still flood, so these areas need a fix too. Kudos to Ellen x 2, Jill and all else. There are some brick blocks next to the parking lot trash can that need to be hauled off.
  • Drainage continues to be an issue. The large puddle by the creek that is as big as a lake needs to be filled in.
  • Drainage issues, hose to wash down dogs prior to getting into car
  • Build up the walkway on the lower side of the part where it floods all the time.
  • Drainage project expanded to include the two swamp areas and netting along the post and rail fences along the entry path
  • Fill in black mud pond by wooden walk by old Gulph. Dogs wade in it and become black-filthy.
  • Let’s get rid of the pond.
  • more small rock/ sand for dry walking paths
  • continue the work of addressing the persistently muddy areas of the paths

Q#6   Do you have any other comments, thoughts, suggestions?

  • This is very important; thank you!
  • Glad we have you caring and taking action on our park! Many thanks!
  • Safety at the intersection next to the park entrance.
  • Like the idea that dogs be leashed when in the parking lot. Peer pressure works wonders. A gate is a costly partial solution, but if funds can be raised or the township agrees, go for it.
  • Wonderful work so far!!! Thanks to everybody!
  • This needs to get done, I would hate to see another dog lose its life because of improper fencing
  • Since Eliza is one of the worst offenders of running into the parking lot when other people are leaving, I fully support any solution that will keep her from running at full speed across the park and jumping into everyone’s cars. – Duncan
  • I keep tripping over poop. People with loose large dogs need to keep their eyes on them at all times and go to the poop and pick it up.
  • I’m glad you mentioned the importance of keeping all dogs on leash in the parking lot . So many near misses observed.
  • I think other areas in the park are also concern re: dogs’ safety.

Return of Santa Paws

2015 santa pawsOn Saturday, December 12, Santa Paws once again visited our park.  He posed for pictures with our dogs and gave a biscuit and a tennis ball to each good pup.  Hot cocoa, cookies, and doughnuts were available for the humans, and a good time was had by all.  Most important of all, the event raised well over $500 for the Pennsylvania S.P.C.A.  Thanks to all who participated for your enthusiasm and generosity!

P.S. you will be glad to know that Santa Paws got a well-earned vacation and is now believed to be cruising the Caribbean.  THANKS  SANTA PAWS for appearing at WMC Park!

IMG_0938P1000306 P1000305 P1000308

Parking at the Park–Issues and News

canstockphoto22387903As you may know, some of our members were recently ticketed, either for parking on the grass or for being in the park after sunset.  We contacted the police department to better understand their concerns and enforcement guidelines.  We had a very pleasant and productive discussion.  Basically, the bottom line is:

Under existing township ordinances, for public safety reasons, the park is open from sunrise to sunset only, so as soon as it begins to get dark you should finish up your conversations and leave the park.  However, the police will use discretion, and give us a little leeway on getting out of the park.  They agreed to void the parking tickets issued between 5 and 5:15 pm for being in the park after sunset (even though technically they were proper under the applicable ordinance) for this reason.

Also, it is illegal to park on the grass and at the side of Mill Creek Road.

  • Parking on the grass will eventually degrade and ruin the attractive green space which the park provides. In addition, there are environmental issues relating to toxic fluids that drip out of cars while parked, especially because of our location next to Mill Creek.
  • Parking on Mill Creek Road is dangerous, both to the cars and drivers parked there and to people leaving the parking lot. Cars parked there block the view of oncoming traffic.

We fully understand that people are only parking on the grass and Mill Creek Road because the parking lot is full.  We will work on scheduling meetings with the Parks Department to see if there is any way to relieve the parking congestion.  Meanwhile, please park only in the actual parking lot—and always park reasonably close to cars that are already parked so as to save space for others.

Summer/Fall Workdays Report

Karen waters, with Rocket looking on

Karen waters, with Rocket looking on

Our hardy garden volunteers worked hard to keep the garden going in a drought-filled summer and fall season.  We had a great watering team that sprang into action every time Mother Nature fell down on the job, and the fact that almost every one of our 5 trees, 48 shrubs, and 650 newly planted perennials not only lived but flourished shows the success of their efforts.  Thank you Watermeister Mark Wassmansdorf, and team Chris Bushnell, Michelle Detwiler, Bobby Harmelin, Karen Hinckley, Toba Spector, and Ellen Briggs.  

Ellen Reese weeds

Also thanks to our planters and weeders who came out for our three late summer and fall work days and donated a total of 31 hours of work, not to mention their expertise and good humor:  Paula Burns, Celeste DeBeese, Michelle Detwiler, Mary Field, Meredith Greenbaum, Karen Hinckley, Martha Lombardo, Ellen Reese, Ellen Briggs, Peter Briggs, and Stephen Briggs.

Mary Field, Ellen Briggs and Peter Briggs with garden tools

Mary Field, Ellen Briggs and Peter Briggs with garden tools