2017 Friends of West Mill Creek Park Survey Results
- 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 response: We 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.
- 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!