One Man’s Trash: Week 1 Report

Yo, we're late for the start of the trash project!
Yo, we’re late for the start of the trash project!

All righty rooney, now that we find ourselves in 2014’s Week 7, I reckon it’s about time to start filing some trashart reports. And since this is the first one, I imagine this’ll be a thing that starts one way and finishes another. It’s evolution, baby.



… or as I like to call it, my local loop. It seemed imprudent to start a yearlong project anywhere else but right out my front door, so for my first trash hike, I laced up my brand new Tims and hit the trail in the Neighborwood.

The intersection of Allens Lane and Lincoln Drive—where the latter dead ends if you take it all the way from I-76/Ridge Ave—is one of the trailheads for the Cresheim Trail. Opened two years ago, the Cresheim Trail connects residential Mt Airy with the existing Cresheim Valley trails leading down to Wissahickon Creek proper. Eventually, through the efforts of Friends of Cresheim Trail, Friends of the Wissahickon, and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the Cresheim Trail will continue on to Montgomery County’s Fort Washington State Park, through which Wissahickon Creek flows, along the former right-of-way of the Fort Washington Branch of the Chestnut Hill West rail line. (A second spur of the same trail will lead to Arcadia University.)

Crossing Emlen Street/Cresheim Valley Drive, the trail descends the Cresheim Valley past the ruins of Buttercup Cottage and through a tunnel of brambles to a clearing at the Telner-St Martins Bridge. After a major storm destroyed the existing stone bridge across Cresheim Creek here in 2004, the Philadelphia Water Department built a new steel crossing in 2011. On the north/west side of the bridge, I encountered the first Problem Area in the project. A 12-pack’s worth of Natty Light cans suggest this area with a nice view down the Cresheim Valley makes for a good party spot. But as I like to say, PARTY YES, LITTER NO. (Or as one South Philly entrepreneur puts it, LOSE YOUR FACE, LEAVE NO TRACE.)

Seepin' & freezin': groundwater in the Wissahickon valley
Seepin’ & freezin’: groundwater in the Wissahickon valley

Moving on down the valley, the trail heads under the beautiful circa-1985 McCallum Street Bridge and finally on to Devil’s Pool, where Cresheim Creek empties into Wissahickon Creek beneath the circa-1892 sewer aqueduct. Turning left and heading down the Wissahickon, I saw what appeared to be a shirt sticking up from the dirt just off-trail. Upon closer inspection, it was a 49ers-era Michael Vick jersey, size 4XL(!).

Passing the Livezey House and dam, the Orange Trail takes you downstream and uphill—up a steep stone stairway and across Fingerspan, Jody Pinto’s functional steel sculpture installed by helicopter in 1987. At the Mt Airy Bridge, one of at least eight stone arch bridges across Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia, I hooked a left under the other sewer aqueduct and a quick right on the White Trail to the Carpenter’s Woods spur trail, taking that home through said woods before the requisite wind-down at Goat Hollow.

The money view from Fingerspan; ruins of an old footbridge at lower left
The money view from Fingerspan; ruins of an old footbridge at lower left

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On 7 January 2014, I did fill one standard grocery store plastic bag and one slightly larger shoe store bag with collected litter, and gathered half a discarded Streets Department sign as well. Broken down, the Week 1 Haul looks a little something like …

Week 1, sorted and stored
Week 1, sorted and stored

1 32oz Gatorade bottle (fruit punch)
1 20oz Gatorade bottle (label missing)
1 14oz Lehigh Valley whole milk (whole milk while hiking? Gross.)
2 16oz water bottles (1 Crystal Springs, 1 Save-a-Lot brand)
2 8oz water bottles (both Nestlē-owned Deer Park; the most wasteful water bottles in the world)
1 plastic wine cup
1 unused dog bag
1 straw
1 random clamp
2 bottle caps
½ Streets Department sign
5 pieces miscellaneous plastic

1 14oz Dunkin Donuts coffee cup

2 12oz beer bottles (labels missing)
1 20oz Diet Pepsi bottle (old school)

11 12oz Natural Light beer cans
2 12oz Miller High Life beer cans (note: both pull tab!)
1 12oz Michelob beer can (pull tab!)
1 24oz Bud Ice beer can
1 16oz Rolling Rock beer can
1 12oz Budweiser beer can
1 12oz Bud Light beer can
1 10oz Coors Light beer can

3 tennis balls
1 chewed-up Nerf ball
1 Nerf bullet

1 flip-flop
1 work glove
1 winter glove
1 Atlanta Falcons jersey (Michael Vick)

3 red and white deflated balloons with red and white ribbon
2 pieces green ribbon
1 piece broken ceramic

Dog shit bags: 1
Dog shit piles: 0
Dogs on leash: 0
Dogs off leash: 2

I need to remember to bring my Leatherman in case things are frozen into the ground or need cutting. I also need to remember to NOT forget work gloves. Nobody wants to pick up litter with their bare hands.

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6 thoughts on “One Man’s Trash: Week 1 Report

  1. I really, really, really, applaud your efforts with this planet saving, info gathering, art installation all in one deal, its a great idea and much needed but I do see a problem and a big one.

    Where the heck are are you going to put 52 weeks of trash?
    Its not even warm out yet and you found a pretty big bunch already.
    Man Alive I hope your not stashing the stuff on your back porch or anything,
    it could get ugly with smells, germs, neighbors, health department, permits……..
    I’d hate to see you on channel 3 or 6 as the guy fighting city hall trying to keep his garbage because it’s “art”.

    Please tell us you have a sanitary home for the stuff.
    I am glad your taking a step to get the trash out of nature and put it where it belongs.

    1. Fret not old friend, I’ve got a good, secure, outdoor(ish) space for it, in the park and well away from any neighbors. And when the project is over, it’ll be disposed of properly — recyclables recycled, usable stuff donated, trash trashed.

  2. The Wissahickon is tame (in the realm of trash). Try Cobbs Creek or FDR Park for some intense trashiness. I have photos of trash hanging from trees 5 feet up after a large storm in Cobbs. I was at several cleanups at FDR…surprised the fish can breathe with what comes out of there.

    1. Believe me, I know. Tacony Creek, Pennypack, Cobbs Creek, FDR … there are definitely some filthy parks. But the Wissahickon is (to me) the best of them, topographically and historically, and well, I live right next to it. Even though there’s less litter in the Wiss, there’s still enough for this project to be possible. But I agree, I wish those other ones weren’t so littered either.

  3. Bradley

    Great work!

    I’ve been studying trash in the Tookany – Tacony Creek and have found that Philadelphia’s storm sewers carry a great deal of street litter to the creek. You can see my work here

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