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May 23, 2024

Wissahickon Valley Park restoration project to limit access to Forbidden Drive for six months

The work, which will start after Memorial Day, will shut down Valley Green Road and detour entry to trails.

Recreation Parks
Wissahickon Bridge Restoration Provided Image/Friends of the Wissahickon

A pedestrian bridge crossing the Wissahickon Creek at Valley Green Road is part of a $3 million project to make improvements and restore the stream bank in the area near the Valley Green Inn. A rendering of the bridge is shown above.

A $3 million restoration project in the area of the Valley Green Inn on Forbidden Drive will begin next week to remedy years of storm erosion along the banks of the Wissahickon Creek. The work will require road closures, which will impact access to the park and its trails for six months.

Friends of the Wissahickon, the nonprofit that helps care for the 1,800-acre park, has been planning the project for years to stabilize the vulnerable stream channel and its infrastructure.

The highlight of the project will be a new pedestrian bridge connecting the park's Orange and White trails to Forbidden Drive near the Valley Green Inn. The 200-foot walkway will include an observation deck with expansive views of the park and the historic Valley Green Bridge, which is set to undergo its own repairs as part of a federally funded project in the coming years.

A stretch of Valley Green Road approaching the park will be shut down to all vehicle traffic for six months starting Tuesday, May 28. The upper parking lot at Valley Green Road will be closed for the duration of the project. Pedestrians and cyclists will have intermittent access to Valley Green Road to enter the park while construction is underway.

The Valley Green Inn will remain open during its normal hours throughout the restoration project. Parking for the inn will be accessed via Wises Mill Road off Henry Avenue in Roxborough. Those driving to the inn from Chestnut Hill will need to go around the park at either Bells Mill Road or Walnut Lane.

Friends of the Wissahickon created an interactive map that shows how the project will affect vehicles and pedestrians in the area. Direct updates on the project can be received by texting WISS to Friends of the Wissahickon at 267-966-2207.

Access to the park's Orange and White trails northbound from Valley Green Road will be closed for the duration of construction. The next closest point of access will be from the Hartwell Lane trailhead. People who are already in the park will take the detour on Forbidden Drive from Valley Green Road to Rex Avenue.

The restoration project aims to lessen the environmental impact of storms on the banks of the creek in an area that has been hammered over the last two decades.

In the early 2000s, a bank collapsed near the dirt pathway that travels from the upper parking lot at Valley Green Road. That path lets out just before the Valley Green Bridge, and the bank came down a few hundred feet from the connection to the road, just before the bridge.

A small, boardwalk-type bridge was installed as a temporary fix to cover a gap that had been created from the collapsed bank. It lasted about a decade until further storm erosion led to the collapse of the footbridge in 2014. A staircase installed by the city restored some access to the path from the upper parking lot on Valley Green Road. Friends of the Wissahickon teamed up with the city and other partners to raise money for a long-term fix.

The first phase of the construction project will involve reconstructing the Valley Green Run stream bank and stream bed. The second phase will be building the bridge and observation deck that restore safe pedestrian access to the area.

Wissahickon Valley Park is Philadelphia's second largest, behind Fairmount Park, and has more than 50 miles of trails through woodland divided by the creek. Forbidden Drive is considered the park's most inviting and scenic trail, passing a series of local landmarks along a five-mile stretch of the creek running from Ten Box to the Cedars House.

Friends of the Wissahickon will provide project updates, additional road closure information and recommendations for alternative park areas on a site dedicated to the restoration.