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Two Neighboring Townships, Nonprofit Unite to Manage Stormwater in Jenkintown Creek

From a press release

While Walt Whitman once penned “good fences make good neighbors,” stormwater knows no boundaries. Such was the case for the Jenkintown Creek that runs through Abington Township and Cheltenham Township.

Since 2014, the Jenkintown Creek has been a priority focus area for Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF) restoration efforts. One of TTF’s recent projects along Jenkintown Creek is the Conklin Recreation Center project, which is also part of Cheltenham Township’s Pollution Reduction Plan.

“An agreement was negotiated with Abington Township crediting Cheltenham for treating Abington’s stormwater by way of this project,” said Robert Zienkowski, Cheltenham Township Manager. “Cheltenham Township is a founding member of TTF and has a longstanding relationship working with TTF and other partners on water quality and stormwater management issues.”

A volunteer plants a new tree.

The restoration removed 235 feet of straight, piped concrete in order to let the Jenkintown Creek flow freely through the constructed wetland. With the TTF watershed being 98 percent developed, it has been difficult for communities to manage stormwater in the area. As communities develop and build, there is less ground to absorb stormwater; however, the Conklin Recreation Center restoration alleviates some of these issues.

In the fall of 2019, construction began to remove the piping next to the Charles D. Conklin Jr. Pool and Recreation Center in Cheltenham Township. Next, the stream had to be rerouted into a zig-zag pattern that follows the natural lay of the land. In addition to allowing the water to flow freely, this design prevents erosion as it slows the flow of water against the banks. Sediment can also drop out of the water into the creek bed to reduce pollution.

The COVID-19 pandemic put the project on hold until the following year. In the fall of 2020, volunteers planted flowering and ground-covering perennials, large grasses, shrubs and trees, on the banks of the newly restored tributary. The plants keep soil from eroding, hold in moisture, and prevent trash from entering the creek.

“The now naturally flowing Jenkintown Creek and wetland planted with native, deep-rooted plants not only improves water quality, it creates habitat in addition to slowing down and cleaning 40 acres of stormwater,” said Julie Slavet, Executive Director of TTF. “There are now fish in the creek, and more bees, birds, and butterflies visit, turning this site into an outdoor environmental classroom.”

In addition to making the area more environmentally friendly and visually appealing, the freely-flowing creek is much safer than the pipe, which had fast-moving water and ditches of dirty water.

Water in the Jenkintown Creek comes mostly from rain running off of more than 40 acres upstream in Montgomery County, including roads, residential properties, condominium complexes and commercial properties. This $183,662 project and others in the watershed impact the Tookany Creek, which flows into Tacony-Frankford Creek, and then connects into the Delaware River.

“This new green stormwater infrastructure improves the water quality of 42 acres of developed drainage area around the rec center, which had been directly discharging to the Jenkintown Creek,” said Anne Leavitt-Gruberger, administrator for the Montco 2040 Implementation Grant Program and manager of the County Planning Section of the Planning Commission. “This project directly ties to township goals as well as goals explicitly laid out in the county’s comprehensive plan.”

TTF and Cheltenham Township designed and managed the project, which was funded by the Montgomery County Planning Commission and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Temple University also partnered up with TTF and Cheltenham to develop the project’s concept and proposal, and provided assistance with water quality monitoring.

A ribbon cutting at the Charles D. Conklin Jr. Pool and Recreation Center was held on June 19, 2021. Many community members attended the event, including Cheltenham Township Ward 7 Commissioner Irv Brockington.

“The community members and families enjoying Conklin Pool this summer offered many positive remarks about the project and the revitalized natural system,” said Brockington.


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