Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust isn’t your typical park; the Trust’s primary goal is to restore and protect native biodiversity. This FAQ is intended to help explain how our rules and management practices align with this goal. If you have a question about our rules or management practices, please don’t hesitate to contact us at contact@pennypacktrust.org.

Why does the Trust sometimes close dirt trails to the creek?

None of the dirt paths down to the creek are actually official trails: they are created by runoff, animals, and people compacting the soil on their way to the creek’s edge. Attraction to the creek is natural for each of these forces, but only people can recognize when a path is too heavily used and needs a break. A majority of the banks in the Trust are soft and dirt-lined, and require careful management. By respecting trail closings, you allow plant roots to return to the soil, protecting the creek bank from erosion. The most environmentally friendly way to explore the edge of a creek is to use marked, stable paths on bedrock.

Why can't I take my dog on some trails, and why does my dog need a leash?

Many wildlife species see dogs, even leashed dogs, as a threat even greater than humans. Birds and other wildlife will not use the prime breeding habitat we have set aside for them if they sense dogs are near, which could mean they don’t successfully mate or care for their offspring. Dogs are allowed on the Creek Road trail and the county’s Pennypack Trail, as sensitive species have learned to avoid these heavily trafficked areas. Even so, dogs must be kept on leash to prevent them from straying into areas they are not expected.

What is the Trust doing about flooding on Creek Road?

Creek Road was closed to vehicular traffic in 1976. At that time it was already potholed and crumbling from the sides, due to its location in the floodplain of Pennypack Creek. The Trust has repaved Creek Road several times, but the force and frequency of flooding has increased over the past several decades. Additionally, Creek Road impairs the passage of amphibians, insects and fingerlings (baby fish) between the marshy pools of the floodplain and the main channel of Pennypack Creek.

It is no longer financially or environmentally responsible to continue to maintain Creek Road as a paved surface. With the parallel Pennypack Trail offering an excellent surface for bikes and heavy foot traffic, the Trust’s Stewardship Committee has begun exploring alternative visions for Creek Road. Though the future of Creek Road is uncertain, visitor experience and access to the unique wetland communities lining the Pennypack floodplain will be high priorities in the decision making process.

What is the Trust doing about Beavers at Crossroads Marsh?

The return of beavers to the Pennypack Watershed after approximately 200 years of extirpation by fur trappers is a sign of the incredible resilience of these fascinating creatures! In their absence, however, we built roads and planted trees where they would have created wetland to live and forage in. Over 2017-2018 a pair of beavers settled at Crossroads Marsh, raised its water level, flooded a section of Creek Road Trail, and felled a number of trees in and around the Marsh for food and construction materials. Though this activity can be shocking to witness and a little annoying to deal with, flooding on Creek Road and tree herbivory are nothing new to the Trust. Most of the trees at risk of being used by the beavers have now been protected by cages. Flooding on Creek Road was so widespread even without beavers that a flood-tolerant redesign of Creek Road is already underway.

Coexistence with the beavers is not only possible, but potentially very beneficial for the Trust. By swimming and digging in Crossroads Marsh, the beavers have brought oxygen into an otherwise stagnant pond. This makes the pond suitable habitat for a much wider range of species. Check out the existing flora and fauna of the Trust, and help us track this expected biodiversity explosion through iNaturalist!

What is up with all the clearing and fencing at Management Woods?

Management Woods was planted in 1990 as a reforestation demonstration in collaboration with the US Forest Service comparing deer protection and tree growth inside plastic tree tubes to traditional protection by an 8-foot fence. Funding for the project arrived at a time when the PA Forest Service nursery had already used most of their stock, aside from white ash trees. Trust staff used what was available, planting 900 white ash and 100 hickories. Both tubed and fenced trees grew into a healthy young stand, but being almost a monoculture made Management Woods vulnerable. In 2015, Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive beetle, arrived at the Trust and began hungrily chewing into every ash tree in the region. By 2018, most of the trees in Management Woods were dead or dying.

Over the winter of 2018-2019, Trust staff removed these dead trees in preparation for a new, diverse planting. The 1990 study showed that though ash trees could thrive in tree tubes, other species, like hickories and oaks, could not. In order to include these species in the replanted Management Woods, we installed a new deer fence that protects almost double the terrain of the previous fence. This larger deer exclosure will also be used to further the Trust’s research on forest regeneration under intense herbivore pressure.

Why does the Trust only allow fishing with artificial lures?

Fishing at the Trust is catch-and-release only. Unscented artificial lures are far safer for this than live bait or scented artificial bait (e.g. PowerBait), due to differences in how these types of bait attract fish. Live bait and scented artificial bait attract fish by smell, meaning they can be left still in the water while fish take multiple bites. This makes it more likely for the fish to get hooked in the gut, causing fatal internal damage. Most unscented artificial lures, on the other hand, must be in motion to attract fish. This makes it easier to tell when fish first bite, and will usually result in a hook through the lip, a minor wound that heals quickly.

Why is swimming not allowed in the Creek

Pennypack Creek receives at least 50% of its water from the effluent of Upper Moreland Hatboro Joint Sewer Authority (UMHJSA). Although the water released from UMHJSA has been treated for pathogens, many of the sewer lines leading to the treatment plant run adjacent to the Creek and can leak untreated sewage due to storms and mechanical failures. These leaks put people at high risk of contracting dangerous infections through the mouth and eyes while swimming in the Creek.

Sewage leak along Pennypack Creek. Photo by K. Roth, 2 Aug 2019.

Although wading in the Creek is tolerated, it also carries health and safety risks. Runoff from streets and parking lots is another major source of the Creek’s water, and it contains machine oils, solvents, and salts from everyday traffic. These chemicals can be irritating to skin if not rinsed off within a few hours of drying. The amount of impervious surface surrounding the Creek valley also makes the Creek prone to high-velocity flash flooding. Lastly, storm events carry large quantities of trash into the creek bed, including sharp objects. Please stay alert for changes in the weather and practice caution when in and around the Creek.