TTF’s residential buffers in Cheltenham were open to the public for a Creekside Bird Garden Tour on June 12. We partnered with Wyncote Audubon, Creekside Coop, Friends of High School Park, and both the Abington and Cheltenham Environmental Advisory Council. These Audubon at Home certified backyard buffers were visited by over 25 residents.
Two years ago, TTF completed the first stream improvement project on residential property with the program “Backyards with Benefits”. Prior to the Fall of 2014, we had worked with schools and communities to revitalize the creek on these properties. However, Cheltenham, our largest upstream municipality, is 54% residential. The next-largest land use is schools, with just 13%. Our densely residential watershed will improve only if citizens do their part for watershed improvement.
TTF began contacting Cheltenham residents along the Tookany Creek and its tributaries in the summer of 2014. That fall, five creekside properties were planted with native trees, shrubs and perennials. These plants play a vital role in slowing down rainwater that rushes through our paved communities and soaking up water pollution before it reaches the stream.
Working with NAM Planning and Design to design and plant these gardens, residents were provided with certified landscape design plans and matching plant guides so they could learn the types of native plants in their buffers and watch them grow. These include edibles like highbush blueberry and paw paws, dogwood and oak trees, and native shrubs, perennials, grasses and wildflowers.
Take a virtual tour of these gardens by watching this vimeo!
On June 12, TTF’s five buffers had a total of 106 visits from residents. “You can really start to see all the different colors and shapes of what we planted this year,” homeowner Janet Everly of Wyncote told folks visiting her home. Janet also purchased a rain barrel to manage rainwater coming off her rooftop. Elkins Park homeowner Cathy Callan is also using a TTF rain barrel from TTF. Homeowners Judy and Steve Heath of Glenside were so pleased with their buffer they even added native wildflowers and native shrubs.
On a hot Sunday, participants also enjoyed benefits beyond the environmental ones, like the shade and color provided by the plants. “We live near train tracks and the stream,” one resident shared. “We like the privacy these plants create”. Our mission is making the creek clean, but these projects offer much more.
Cheltenham recently joined Abington to become an Audubon Birdtown. Through this program, Audubon works with communities to encourage residents and others to make their properties ecologically friendly. Partner Wyncote Audubon joined us at tour sites, spotting the many species of birds making use of the surrounding plants.
The tour was self guided and included information to help folks improve water quality and bird habitat in their own backyards. Seeing the projects is just the first step to improve our creeks.
The next step is action – residents now know that having a healthy stream is up to them. You can help too! The tour guide doubles as an example of the different practices you can use to be a watershed steward. Take a look today and make a difference this summer.