Finding Frankford Creek: Exploring problems & solutions

Jamilee Hoffman
Jan 12, 2022


Throughout the summer and fall of 2021, TTF hosted a series of tours in collaboration with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network as part of Finding Frankford: Investing in the Long-Term Recovery of a Forgotten Urban Stream, a program to learn about watershed problems, explore solutions, and celebrate the recovery and the future of our waterways.

This tour series was funded by an Environmental Justice grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency. Attendees walked, clicked, and paddled their way through our watershed. These tours led from the headwaters of the Tookany Creek in Montgomery County down to the mouth of Frankford Creek where it joins the Delaware River.

The first of these tours took place in June, in which participants met at the top of Tacony Creek Park in Philadelphia. Attendees walked from Cheltenham Ave down to the confluence with the historic Wingohocking Creek in Juniata Park.

On this tour, attendees learned about the challenges of Philadelphia’s combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in Tacony Creek and had the opportunity to see a few CSOs, including the city’s largest. Combined municipal sewer and stormwater systems experience these overflows. When rain occurs, the system which carries both wastewater and stormwater becomes inundated by the volume of water due to the large volume of runoff from paved surfaces in the city. The Philadelphia Water Department’s system then releases this mixture of stormwater and wastewater directly into the creek because our wastewater treatment plants cannot handle the overflows.

The second tour took place virtually; attendees explored the Tookany Creek in Montgomery County, tracing it from its humble beginnings to where it enters the city at Cheltenham Ave and becomes the Tacony Creek. This tour took a look at what a suburban creek looks like, some of the challenges that suburban creeks face, and some of the ways that TTF is working to combat these challenges. View this tour here!

The third tour took place in September and involved a roughly 5-mile paddle on the Delaware River to the mouth of Frankford Creek. Attendees launched in kayaks from the Frankford Boat Launch, and paddled their way down river past the historic mouth of the Frankford Creek, to the current mouth of the creek located next to the Betsy Ross Bridge. On this tour, attendees learned about the history of Frankford Creek, and the current conditions of the creek. Much of the discussion centered around the lack of dissolved oxygen available at the mouth of the creek at certain times of the year due to CSOs. 

In October, attendees met at Castor Avenue where it crosses over Frankford Creek, and walked over 3 miles down to the last bridge over the Frankford Creek at Delaware Avenue. This tour traced the historic legacy of the creek through past industrial neighborhoods as it makes its way down to the Delaware River. Another significant highlight of this tour was the discussion of the alterations of Frankford Creek to alleviate flooding issues in the lower reaches of the creek.

These alterations have been significant, including the creation a concrete-lined channel and straightening of the lower section of the Frankford Creek, so that it no longer follows the same path to the Delaware River as it once did. All of these alterations as well as its industrial past have had a profound and lasting impact on Frankford Creek and surrounding neighborhoods.

In November, attendees came together to plant a small grove of trees in Tacony Creek Park: White Oak (Quercus alba), Red Oak (Quercus rubra), and Red Maple (Acer rubrum). These trees will provide shade for an area where a large number of programs and activities take place, as well as helping to provide habitat for a host of native species.

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