Major In-Stream Restoration Project Completed at Wissahickon Creek Headwaters


Since this project was completed in October 2020, it has received three distinguished awards recognizing its impact. 

Project Partners at the Montgomery Awards Ceremonyi

After more than five years of planning, the $1.4 million Wissahickon Headwaters Stream and Riparian Restoration Project in Upper Gwynedd Township has been completed. This project restored and stabilized the stream channel and reconnected it with its floodplain along 1,775 linear feet of the Wissahickon Creek in the PECO Right-of-Way power line corridor.  


Funding and support for this project was made possible through public and private partnerships, with Wissahickon Trails leading the effort. Partners include Merck & Co., Inc., Upper Gwynedd Township, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, PECO, the William Penn Foundation, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.


Working closely with local stakeholders, such as Merck, Upper Gwynedd, and PECO, backed by additional state, federal, and private dollars, is a really important aspect of this project. This kind of public/private partnership is necessary when addressing complex environmental challenges, such as stormwater.  In the Wissahickon, there are local public and private partners who are committed to being a part of the solution.


Working with PECO on the project, as well as Merck and Upper Gwynedd Township, Wissahickon Trails was able to turn this property along a highly eroded stretch of the Creek into an actual floodplain, which will slow down the force of the water and allow it to percolate into the ground, instead of flowing downstream. Flood tolerant plantings will be installed, which, over time, will look and work as a functioning ecosystem.  


"At Merck, we have a responsibility to use resources wisely and drive innovations that will enable development while protecting and preserving the communities in which we live and work,” said Nancy Bednarik, Director, Global Facilities Management. "We were happy to contribute to the funding for the project as part of our partnership with the township, and we continue to support Wissahickon Trails through our Neighbor of Choice grant program."


“The Wissahickon Headwaters Stream and Riparian Restoration Project was an incredible opportunity to expand on our long-standing partnership with Wissahickon Trails to restore and stabilize the Wissahickon Creek in our power line corridor and improve a severely impaired stream,” said Romona Riscoe Benson, Director of Corporate Community Impact at PECO. “As a company committed to preserving and protecting the environment, we are inspired by the significant efforts of our nonprofit partners to advance the future resiliency of the vital watershed, and we will continue to support projects that help preserve our natural resources.”


A well-functioning watershed captures, stores, and slowly releases rainfall (and snowmelt too) into a body of water, such as a creek, stream, or river. Increased rain events caused by climate change and continuous development within the Wissahickon watershed exponentially increase surface runoff and overland flow.  This increased flow we see during and after storm events erodes the streambanks throughout the watershed, adding sediment and pollution to, and, ultimately, degrading the habitat and water quality of the Wissahickon Creek and its tributaries.


Despite being a vital natural resource and a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection priority watershed in the region, the Wissahickon Creek has been classified as an impaired stream on the Integrated List of all Waters since 1996 due to excessive nutrients and sediment. Wissahickon Trails and our partners are committed to addressing the impaired status of the Wissahickon Creek, and investing time and resources into capital projects to create a healthier Wissahickon Creek for the people, plants, and wildlife that call it home. Sustainability projects such as the one completed this fall, will reduce erosion, improve water quality, and provide habitat for many years to come. 


Liz McNaney, Upper Gwynedd Board of Commissioners President said, “Upper Gwynedd Township is proud to be a member of this public private partnership that includes a diverse group of stakeholders. This project is a part of our plans to meet regulatory requirements for water quality in the Wissahickon Creek and we are very happy with the positive impact that it will have on our waterways. The project will reduce sedimentation, restore connection with the stream and the floodplain and improve the capacity of the floodplain.  Wissahickon Trails structured the project to include native plants and wetland plantings.  All together this results in a project that is good for the environment and good for our town.”


Folks can visit this project site at the start of the Green Ribbon Trail at Parkside Place, where the trail changes from paved to unpaved.  

Updated photo of the headwaters project from June 2021

This article was originally published in October 2020, but was updated September 2022