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Whitby Meadows Project

Earlier this spring, LandHealth Institute partnered with Audubon Mid-Atlantic to complete a land revitalization project at Whitby Meadows in Cobbs Creek Park as part of Love Your Park Week. We started by pulling out a large section of invasive Japanese knotweed along the bank of the creek. Some people would suggest spraying herbicides to kill off undesirable plant species, but this causes more harm than good. The same chemicals that suppress the growth of Japanese knotweed can also be damaging to the native plants in the area as well as to pollinating birds and insects which are all important parts of a healthy ecosystem. We chose to avoid the use of herbicides and opt for the approach of tiring the plants out.

With our partners at Audubon and a group of volunteers, we spent the afternoon pulling the knotweed up by the roots and cutting it down with sheers. The knotweed will eventually begin to grow back but each time it’s cut down it grows back less and less. Once we had the knotweed patch cleared, we put in about 50 native plants, all of which were from LandHealth’s Native Plant Nursery. Replacing invasive species with native ones improves the overall health of an area and in the case of this project, we made big steps towards restoring this natural meadow. Where the Japanese knotweed had taken over, the tree canopy had bare sections and planting trees that will not only fill these spots, but will also grow roots to stabilize the river bank, which will be positive changes for the other flora and fauna in the area.

The help of our partners at Audubon Mid-Atlantic as well as from volunteers made this project possible. One of these volunteers, Mike Heaney, is also a LandHealth Institute member. He became a member this spring and has come to many of LandHealth’s Wonderwalks, since he is fascinated about everything involving the history of Philadelphia, specifically from an ecological perspective.

Mike said, “I’m just really fascinated by everything about Philadelphia, so I’ve learned different things about all kinds of history but to get the ecological background is refreshing. I do a lot of hiking and see a lot of natural areas but just to see the natural areas around where I live is really interesting to me...On all of the outings I’ve been on with Scott, I’ve been amazed. He’s a source of really great information when it comes to the history and ecology of each site… I’ve learned a lot with Scott.” Mike is passionate about the beauty of the area and has also been involved in similar projects to the Whitby Meadows restoration such as trail maintenance on various hiking paths, including the Appalachian trail, and he spent the afternoon helping us complete this revitalization project. “It’s kind of a unique site...Whitby Meadows is just fascinating.”

Although he is not a Philadelphia native, he grew up close by and really loves the city. Throughout his life he grew to love Philadelphia and the outdoor side of this urban environment. “I just really wanted to move into the city. I didn’t move here for the environment, but I love the combination of the beautiful buildings with the huge Fairmount Park. It was intentional to move to Philly for what it has to offer in terms of history as well as natural outdoor spaces.”

Like Mike, LandHealth is invested in the entirety of the city of Philadelphia, but over the last few years, we’ve become particularly interested in Cobbs Creek. We have been involved in many projects in the section along the creek where Whitby Meadows is located, including running student programs such as our Program for Future Environmental Scientists and Stewards (ProFESS), leading Urban-Eco Wonderwalks, and planting native species from our nursery. We plan to continue our work in this area in the future including bringing more students, Wonderwalkers, and native plants to Whitby Meadows. One of our hopes for this space is to begin to make progress on our restoration proposal plan. With the help of a handful of Philadelphia high school students, Scott Quitel wrote a plan to make this an area that the surrounding community would be able to use. Whitby Meadows is a beautiful natural resource that is mostly untouched. The paths in and out of this area are overgrown, in some places have trees down, and need to be leveled out and if you follow the trails into Whitby Meadows, it seems abandoned. If these areas were cleaned up and had proper signage, these could be great spaces for the community. Our efforts to fulfill this goal have just begun and with continued support from our valued members, we have high hopes for this project and this area of our city.


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