As part of a large urban park system, Wissahickon Valley Park is a source of recreation for a wide variety of park users, including bikers, birdwatchers, dog walkers, equestrians, fishermen, hikers, and runners.
At times, it is inevitable that these various users will have conflicts. To establish an overall policy for park use, FOW has crafted a statement, Appropriate Use of the Wissahickon. In this statement, FOW emphasizes the need for all park users to be considerate of the many ways in which the park is used and to be respectful of the ecological integrity of this urban wilderness.
According to membership surveys conducted by FOW, two issues that emerge as sources of conflict are biking and dogs off leash.
There have been conflicts between bikers and/or hikers, as well as equestrians and bird watchers, on the Wissahickon trails. In order to ameliorate these tensions, a policy was formulated and implemented several years ago that allows the use of bicycles on a limited number of "shared use" trails. As part of this program, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) installed trail signs and instituted a trail user registration program. A trail user permit is now required for all bikers using the upper trails in the Wissahickon. Get more information on obtaining a bike permit.
Additionally, biking groups work with PPR, FOW, and the public to improve maintenance of trails. Moreover, one of the central goals of FOW's Sustainable Trails Initiative (STI) is to redesign the trail system in order to achieve a more comfortable balance between different user groups.
Dogs Off Leash
PPR regulations require that all dogs be on a leash no more than six feet long. Penalties for breaking this regulation include hefty fines of up to $300. A number of dog walkers let their dogs off leash, but even "good" dogs can be disruptive to walkers or runners, scare horses, and interrupt the quiet appreciation of the Wissahickon Valley's natural beauty.
Also, dogs off leash are not liable to stick to trails and can add to the erosion of the park's slopes, ruin fragile vegetation, and disturb small mammals and ground nesting birds. FOW has brought attention to this issue through its newsletter and continues to ask park users to be aware of the regulation and mindful of the negative impact of dogs off leash.