We are only able to achieve clean water work with the help of our exemplary watershed heroes. This year, in our 11th Annual Watershed Milestones Awards Ceremony, we are recognizing a whopping TEN honorees in the following categories:
Friend: Frank and Betty Coyle
Friend: Devin Green, Bennett Compost
Educator: Rachel Zibelman-LeSuer of Juniata Park Academy
Corporate Steward: Pixel Parlor
Nonprofit Steward: Stroud Water Research Center
Nonprofit Steward: V.U.R.T. Creative
Public Leader: Roy Gordon, Philadelphia Water Department
Youth Champion: Ian Capacio
Legacy Award: MyKyah Vessels
Frank and Betty Coyle
Frank and Betty are dedicated Tacony Creek Keepers. Together, they diligently represent the Keepers by sharing information about Tacony Creek Park with the wider Philadelphia community at events, and helping out at clean-ups in the park. They share their passion for caring for the earth and providing service to others by sharing their tree care knowledge and by showing up, time and time again, to help at our events. We’re so grateful to have friends like Frank and Betty!
Ever since Bennett Compost moved their headquarters near Tacony Creek Park in June 2021, they’ve hosted weekly Thursday morning clean-ups. Devin, a Bennett Compost employee, has brought incredible energy to this endeavor, taking the lead on these trail cleanups. Whether leading a group of coworkers or working alone, he is meticulous in his work and advocacy for our watershed. We applaud his dedication to keeping the park clean and welcoming for all to enjoy!
Rachel has been an enthusiastic partner for a number of years! She sees the incredible opportunities local green space provides for her students and goes above and beyond to make those connections. In her role as a teacher at Juniata Park Academy, she informs her students and families about programs in Tacony Creek Park, encouraging them to attend and even meeting them there.
She has been an active member of the Tacony Creek Park Master Plan Advisory Committee, bringing energy and enthusiasm to the committee and public meetings. She has also been instrumental in distributing surveys to Academy students, which was incredibly helpful. Feedback from local families about their dreams for Tacony Creek Park is vital to ensuring that the park vision reflects the interests and ideas of local youth. We need more teachers like Rachel!
We’ve had the honor of working with the talented people at Pixel Parlor for many years. Pixel Parlor, a woman-owned multi-disciplinary design studio and Certified B Corp, has played a critical role in refreshing TTF branding and materials since 2018. They’ve helped us create Annual Reports that are approachable, eye-catching and engaging, allowing us to share our stories with a wider audience than we had ever imagined possible. They developed our new logo and brand standards pro bono, even creating a TTF-themed coloring page for kids.
Their passion for the environment is a through line in their work— they consistently go above and beyond. They donate their time to our clean water work, coming out at least once a year to volunteer in Tacony Creek Park. They give every project, such as their recent work on the River Alive! Learning Trail Seek & Funds, their all. They are truly an inspiring example of Corporate Stewardship!
Stroud Water Research Center
Stroud Water Research Center has been a partner through the Delaware River Watershed Initiative since 2013. Their deep knowledge of freshwater science and education has been an incredible asset to TTF’s creek monitoring as a part of our Streamkeepers and our Green Stormwater Infrastructure projects in and around Jenkintown Creek.
The Center has focused our attention on the high levels of chloride (salt) observed by the sensors we’ve placed in our creeks, and have been crucial in analyzing and interpreting the data to make it understandable to the general public. With their expertise, we revamped our Save Our Streams from Road Salt fact sheet to include data from our local streams, and better explain the harmful impacts of too much chloride. Stroud was a “Chloride Blitz” collaborator in Spring of 2022 when our Streamkeepers assessed the levels of salt still in our creeks months after winter salting. Their assistance enabled us to gather important data showing that salt levels were still shockingly high in the spring, a critical time in the life cycles of fish, amphibians, and other wildlife reliant on clean water.
After a January 2022 ice storm, “a water sensor [conducted by Stroud Water Research Center] in Tookany Creek in Jenkintown detected salt levels so high, it twice recorded peaks of more than 57,000 microsiemens per centimeter — a measurement of electrical conductivity that rises with salinity.” (The Inquirer) “Freshwater streams, lakes, and rivers should measure close to zero, but no more than 1,500.” (The Inquirer)
This data curated by the Stroud Water Research Center ”show there [was] enough salt in [some parts of the TTF watershed] to stress or kill certain species of fish, insects, amphibians, and mussels” (The Inquirer). Stroud’s data conducted at the beginning of this year helped TTF get coverage in the Inquirer, providing wider recognition on how impaired our watershed is, and why our creeks deserve awareness and care!
In March 2022, a Streamkeeper testified at a Philadelphia City Council hearing about Road Salt! TTF would not be able to engage with city leaders on important issues like chloride levels on our streets and in our waterways, without the partnership of Stroud Water Research Center.
We are thankful to collaborate with an organization with so much expertise and experience in communicating issues surrounding clean water. TTF could not make such a significant impact without dedicated partners like Stroud.
V.U.R.T. Creative is a network of like-minded artists and advocates who strive to inspire, unify, and renew urban communities through the power of public art and revitalization. Their work is everywhere around the city— if you’ve seen the Raccoon with the soft pretzel mural or the iconic Squirrel gnawing on a SEPTA token, you’ve seen their work!
TTF was inspired by their “Local Critters” mural series, and reached out to Evan Lovett and V.U.R.T Creative on Instagram to talk about how we could collaborate to bring beauty to Tacony Creek Park. After a brief meeting and walk through the park, we identified two projects to promote our urban wildlife and mission. Evan designed a Great Blue Heron wrap for Creekforce 1, our van, and created four huge murals of birds under the Whitaker Avenue bridge along the Tacony Creek Park Trail in the spring of 2019.
These eye-catching art pieces are iconic symbols of our work. The van serves us as a traveling billboard as we drive staff, volunteers, trees, and shovels across our 30-square-mile watershed. Along the Tacony Creek Park trail, the four bird murals—a Great Blue Heron, Peregrine Falcon, White Breasted Nuthatch, and Belted Kingfisher—have welcomed and inspired thousands of park visitors.
Over the years, the team has returned to host programs in the park, as well as to remove tagging and refresh the beauty of these murals. This past spring, we hosted Birds of a Feather with local artists to honor and celebrate the park, murals, and our community. VURT’s art has raised up a landscape that is well-loved by its surrounding community, despite the lack of public investment.
Roy Gordon is a committed Philadelphia Water Department employee, who values and shares the importance of his role in protecting Philadelphia’s waterways. In the summer of 2022, TTF was leading a tour of Tacony Creek Park for our Power Corps PHL Ranger apprentices and stopped to talk to the Flow Unit crew working at the T-9 sewer outfall. Roy greeted our group and explained the purpose of the Rock Run inflatable rubber dam as well as how it functions to block an 11-foot-diameter combined sewer outfall (CSO) during heavy rains. His enthusiasm and knowledge was inspiring, and added to the impact of the walk along the creek, helping apprentices understand how CSOs work and recognize what steps can be taken to reduce pollution. He’s an inspiration to his fellow residents of all ages.
Ian was an exceptional intern with us this year. He filled seed packets with three pounds of Plains Coreopsis seeds for watershed residents. Community members will be able to beautify their yards with native plants for years to come. Ian also helped with outreach to TTF volunteers and supporters. His attention to detail, meticulousness, diligence, and good humor were so appreciated by the TTF Team! Thank you Ian, for your dedication to the TTF watershed!
TTF is grateful for all the interns who have given so much time and passion to work with us. Ian is a student from Community Integrated Services. CIS focuses on helping people with disabilities and families to safely access employment, and work with hundreds of students and ‘opportunity youth’ to explore careers, develop job skills, and make meaningful community connections as they transition from school to work.
Since serving as an Alliance for Watershed Education of the Delaware River Fellow in the Summer of 2021, MyKyah has shared knowledge and enthusiasm for nature with Tacony Creek Park neighbors. Even after her summer fellowship ended, MyKyah continued to be part of our programs, leading seasonal foraging walks discussing edible wild plants and creating a printed foraging guide book as a community resource. The knowledge that MyKyah has shared with our community about nature and edible plants connects and ignites passion in current and future neighbors of the park.
Thank you MyKyah for continuing the legacy of TTF, and thank you to all our Milestones honorees for devoting your time to improving our watershed!