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David Dannenberg – Board Member, Friends of the Wissahickon (Part 2 of 3)

By Admin | March 8, 2008

What is the crime like in the Wisshahickon Park?


Fortunately, pretty low. People don’t seem to go to the park to torment others. There are a lot of break-ins to parked cars however. There is also litter, many beer parties, vandalism, and other nuisance crimes.

Is it safe to walk the Forbidden Drive after dark?

I can’t answer that. Safe for whom? I feel pretty safe down there at all times. I am also male and know my way around down there.

We are in the city and people should use caution. I believe that walking with at least one other person and/or a dog is safer than walking alone and daytime is arguably safer than nighttime.

The more people are in the park, the safer it is, so the park is likely safer on a nice Saturday in May than a weekday in February.

It is generally believed that women are more vulnerable and more often targeted for personal crime than men.

You are located in a Lyme endemic area but there are no warning signs in the park to this effect. Why is that?

The park has very strict policies about signage. The Sustainable Trails Initiative includes a comprehensive signage plan. It is likely that under that plan information about Lyme disease will be posted at some trail heads.

To their credit when park personnel like David Bower run volunteer projects there is usually some discussion of Lyme disease. This is also true of FOW when we run volunteer projects.

How do you control the deer population in the park?

There is an annual cull of the deer herd. The program is a national model. It has been successful in reducing the herd, and improving the herbaceous ground layer in the park.

Though I am no expert, I personally believer that it will continue to be an ongoing project for the foreseeable future.

This is true for a number of reasons not the least of which is that property owners outside of the Wissahickon, especially, the managers of large public tracts including Fort Washington State Park, are not doing enough to control deer on their land.

Bear in mind that unchecked, whitetail deer populations double every two years and that there are no predators other than automobiles and bow hunters on the private land outside of the Wissahickon.

What is the biggest challenge facing the park on an environmental front?

The three biggest challenges are the interrelated challenges of severe erosion caused by storm water runoff(mostly along poor trails, the invasion of exotic plant species, and the overpopulation of white tailed deer.

How have you resolved the recent tensions between different user groups like hikers, bikers, and horseback riders in the park?

This is a continuing process and challenge. I am not aware that there are particular tensions that are recent, and anecdotally tensions seem to be decreasing.

Do you try to keep different user groups segregated within the park?

We learned early in the evolution of the Sustainable Trial Initiative that trail design drives user behavior.

Behavior that results in user conflict is usually engendered by trail design. For example, if a trail has a blind turn, it is a good bet that people will startle one another in the vicinity of the turn. Because they will not be aware of one another’s presence in time to react comfortably.

So first of all, we are planning to rebuild the trail system so that it elicits good behavior.

Secondly, we work directly with all kinds of park users, and try bring those users together. This allows them to get to know one another as individual people rather than anonymous “other kinds of users” and gets them to understand other users’ points of view.

This occurs both informally, such as when joggers, bikers, equestrians, do-walkers, and birders all work together on a common project during a work day.

It occurs formally when we speak to particular user groups or help facilitate specific interactions. For example, recently FOW helped facilitate a clinic at Courtesy stables.

Mountain bikers of the Philadelphia Mountain Biking Association and equestrians discussed proper trail etiquette and practiced passing one another in the controlled environment of the corral.

Thirdly, we occasionally are in a position to receive and act on specific complaints by contacting the affected parties and working with them toward resolution.

Many people are using the park for many purposes. We can coexist if we recognize the commonality of the experiences we seek, appreciate others’ rights to enjoy the particular types of experiences they seek, and recognize other’s needs and the impact of our behavior can have on others’ experiences.

How are the Friends of the Wissahickon relations with the Fairmount Park Commisssion?

FOW’s relationship with Fairmount Park Commission is excellent at all levels. All projects undertaken in the Wissahickon require approval from FPC at some level, ranging from the district to the senior staff to the Commissioners.

Weekly, we work hand in hand with staff of District 3 and with the staff of Wissahickon Environmental Center.

Administratively, FOW meets with the Director of Fairmount Park at least quarterly, and communicates and meets as needed with the Director of Operations and other senior staff.

The Sustainable Trails Initiative, for example, received official endorsement of the Commission, after lengthy negotiations and input from staff at the local and administrative levels.

FOW can only work with explicit approval of the Fairmount Park Comission and relies on FPC support and cooperation for virtually all of its activities.

Copyright 2008 DailyInterview.com

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