[Editor's note: the number of perennial's planted has been corrected from a previous edition of this article]
The Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy was founded in 1964 with a single mission: To combat the increasingly poor water quality throughout the Perkiomen Creek watershed.
“We do whatever we can to help water quality in the Perkiomen Watershed,” Krista Scheirer, the Conservancy’s conservation coordinator, said. “What you do to the land is what you do to the water.”
The primary work of the PWC is through public education events, such as in nearby school districts or through volunteer events. According to the Conservancy website (www.perkiomenwatershed.org), the service area encompasses 362 square-miles of diverse communities and spectacular landscapes in western Montgomery County, as well as areas in Bucks, Berks and Lehigh counties.
The website further states that approximately, “500,000 individuals and thousands of businesses rely on water from the Perkiomen Creek and its local aquifers for their water supplies.”
Scheirer explained that a majority of what pollutes the creek can be described as “non-point source pollution,” in which many small acts of pollution that would lead to stream bank damage and poor water quality.
“It’s not just somebody dumping into the stream,” Scheirer said, adding that the Conservancy does in fact find several inexplicably placed tires in the creek and its tributaries.
Examples of non-point source pollution, Scheirer said, would be washing one’s vehicle in their driveway and allowing the soap to run off into the storm drain.
Scheirer said that the Conservancy’s several environmental education programs are also volunteer opportunities for the public. According to the website, in 2012, more than 650 volunteers pulled tons of trash and large items from the Perkiomen Creek, enough to fill several large dumpsters.
Another popular conservation volunteer event is occurring both this month and again in October. According to Scheirer, the conservancy enjoys a list of eager volunteers for its tree-planting program.
Made possible through a grant from TreeVitalize, the Conservancy and its community volunteers plant hundreds and hundreds of trees along the creek and tributaries each year. As part of the educational aspect to the volunteer opportunity, Conservancy officials explain tree-planting benefits.
“There are a lot of reasons we plant trees,” Scheirer said, adding that one of the primary reasons would be for storm water management. “A buffer of trees serves to hold stream banks in place, so they do not erode.”
This would allow for rain-washed pollutants to be retained along the stream bank, as opposed to entering the stream itself.
“Slowing down all that dirty storm water, which flows from roads, drive ways, lawns and rooftops, gives the water a chance to seep into the soil, too,” she further explained in an e-mail. “This is good because the water is naturally filtered as it moves through the soil, and we need to recharge groundwater resources.”
Banks of trees also help prevent flooding.
Schreier added that conservation efforts aren’t necessarily exclusive to the immediate area around the Perkiomen. Creek. In fact, such measures could literally be found in one’s backyard.
Scheirer said that the Conservancy is often consulted by local municipalities on best practices concerning recent developments in federal legislation that helps new developments move toward environmentally responsible construction, including the reduction of impervious surfaces.
The Conservancy also addresses retroactive conservation efforts, such as converting residential and commercial storm basins, which are large depressions of land used to drain rainwater, into wetland preserves.
According to Scheirer, Conservancy volunteers recently planted 2,500 perennial flowers and 111 trees at three such basins in Pennsburg last month.
She says that she is grateful for all the volunteers that sign up to Conservancy programs, and admits that the Conservancy would not be successful without their willingness to be stewards of their own backyards.
“If we didn’t have volunteers, we couldn’t do as much good,” Scheirer said. “Our volunteers are our most valuable resource.”
Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy Tree Planting opportunities:
Hoy Park Volunteer Event:
When: Saturday, 22
Time: 10 a.m
Where: Hoy Park, Lower Providence along the Perkiomen Creek
Skippack Meadows Community Volunteer Event:
When: Friday, October 5 and Saturday, October 6,
Time: 10 a.m
Where: Skippack Meadows Community in Schwenksville.
Volunteers must pre-register for these events. To register for these volunteer events, visit www.perkiomenwatershed.org. For more information, e-mail email@example.com or call 610-287-9383.