We are all capable of taking actions in our own lives that have positive impacts on the health of our local environment. Here are a few ways that you can make a difference.
Choose Native Plants
Use native plants in your yard or garden to support local wildlife. Non-native plants do less to support local wildlife with food, shelter, and cover. For example, native oak trees support more than 500 native species of caterpillars. But no native caterpillar will feed on the leaves of the butterfly bush (Buddleia), an invasive plant from Asia.
Native plants are adapted to local conditions and often don’t need extra watering, fertilizers, or pesticides to thrive. You don’t need a large area to have a native garden. Many native plants can be grown in containers in small spaces. Local nurseries carry native plants, several local nurseries offer discounts to Wissahickon Trails Supporters.
Make Your Home Safe for Birds
The birds in your backyard don’t see the windows on your house the way you do. Instead, they see reflections of the sky and surrounding habitat, and when they try to fly to the trees, shrubs, or blue skies that they perceive, they collide with solid glass. While they might fly off after a window collision, most birds have internal injuries or concussions and do not survive. With an estimated one million window strikes per day in North America, this is likely the greatest human-induced cause of bird population declines.
The good news is, you can easily take action to make your windows safe using decals or screens. Place bird feeders either close to a window (less than three feet away) so that birds can’t pick up enough speed to be injured if they hit glass; or far away (more than ten feet) so that there is plenty of space for them to maneuver.
Get a Personalized Stormwater Plan
If you own a home in Abington near Roychester Park and Overlook Elementary School, Wissahickon Trails can provide you with a personalized audit and plan to manage stormwater on your property. A member of our team will visit your home and provide you with recommendations on how to manage runoff in order to protect local creeks as part of our Stream Smart House Calls program.
If you do not live in the Stream Smart House Calls project area, download the Homeowner’s Stormwater Handbook. This guide is a great introduction to make your property stormwater ready.
Consider a Rain Garden
If you have water issues in your yard, a rain garden may help. Rain gardens are strategically located to allow stormwater to soak into the soil. These gardens also use native plants, and can serve double duty as a pollinator garden or bird garden depending on plant selection.
Yard Care Strategies
If you live along the Wissahickon or a tributary, don’t mow all the way up to the water. Leave a buffer in your backyard of native trees, shrubs, or even tall grasses to limit erosion and property loss. When raking leaves, place them into a yard bag instead of the street or storm drains to keep our waterways clear. Or, use leaves in your lawn and garden as natural mulch. Use less fertilizer, and never use fertilizer 24 hours before forecasted rain, as rain will wash fertilizers into our waterways.
In Your Driveway
Consider strategies to keep our waterways clean. Wash your car in your grass, or at a car wash where water is processed, so that detergents don’t run into storm drains and into the creek. When preparing for snow and ice, use less rock salt, and sweep up any excess salt after the ice has melted. Never pour liquids or trash down the storm drain.
Be a Nature-Friendly Pet Owner
There are a few simple steps you can take to protect your pets, local wildlife, and the Wissahickon Creek. Always pick up your pet’s poop, as it contains bacteria, and when it rains it washes pollutants directly into our waterways. Keep your pets on leash. This keeps them, and any wildlife they may come in contact with, safe from harm. Be sure to vaccinate your pet. In the unfortunate event your pet does come in contact with a wild animal, vaccinations will protect them against diseases such as rabies, canine distemper, feline distemper, and leptospirosis. Keep cats indoors—billions of birds are killed each year by outdoor cats.
In Your Community
Help keep the Wissahickon watershed clean, visit our volunteer page to learn about opportunities to make our community a better place.
Attend a municipal meeting, especially meetings about zoning or ordinances. Check your township’s meeting schedule and docket in advance so you know what will be discussed. By voicing your opinion, you can make sure that ordinances reflect the values of the community. Also consider joining your municipality’s environmental advisory council (EAC), the arm of local government that focuses on environmental conservation.
If you have one, talk to your homeowner’s association. Many HOAs have ordinances that run counter to environmental practices. You may be required to cut your grass to a certain height or pull weeds. This limits the health of backyards and natural landscapes. Your HOA may not be aware that higher lawns and weeds are good for stormwater absorption and animal habitat. You can educate them!
On Your Mobile Device
When you’re in your yard or one of our preserves, you can help track the plants and animals that live in the Wissahickon watershed on your computer or mobile device. Participating in any of the projects listed in the Additional Resources section contributes to data that is used at both local and national levels.