Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership honors Watershed Milestones Award winners
| November 4, 2023
Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership celebrated watershed heroes at its Annual Watershed Milestones Ceremony last month in a ceremony that recognized 10 individuals and organizations who have supported clean water efforts in the TTF watershed community.
These latest honorees joined a community of more than 100 people, organizations, institutions and businesses that have been honored for improving the health of the impaired 30-square-mile watershed.
The partnership’s executive director, Julie Slavet, provided opening remarks and expressed the group’s respect for the original stewards of the watershed, the Lenape, and the need to take responsibility for their removal and genocide.
She noted that the names Tookany and Tacony are from a Lenape word for “woods” or “hidden space.”
Slavet also expressed special thanks to Steve Gest and Steve Goldstein, founders of an organization that was a precursor to TTF, saying: “We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, like our two Steves. They were our first Milestones heroes. We just didn’t know it yet! They were trailblazers and advocates for TTF creeks in the 1970s, making a lasting impact that we are benefitting from today. Their generosity, along with that of an anonymous donor, created both a paid intern program and a significant investment in TTF’s future.”
Attendees heard from Shawn McCaney, the executive director of the William Penn Foundation.
“A healthy Delaware River watershed is something that has been especially important to the William Penn Foundation over the last 10 years,” McCaney said. “To that end, we’ve been privileged to support TTF Watershed Partnership in so much of their work for both nature and people. They have not only worked tirelessly with many partners to improve water quality within their 30 square miles, but they have also been successful in thoughtfully reaching and connecting with their neighbors who live in some of the most diverse communities in Philadelphia, understanding that communities thrive when they have access to clean, safe, and accessible natural spaces.”
Those honored were:
Eric Blacksten, Friend Award: A Tacony Creek Park neighbor who visits the park for enjoyment, and to commute to and from work. Blacksten repaired benches in Tacony Creek Park that had been broken for decades. Park visitors now have places to sit down, rest and enjoy nature.
Izaak Walton League, Educator Award. The League has been an extraordinary champion and defender of the nation’s soil, air, woods, waters and wildlife for over 100 years. As the only organization training, equipping and coordinating water quality volunteers to ensure water is safe on a national scale, the league has provided TTF with exemplary Salt Watch tools, support, and training to measure road salt in our streams and educate neighbors and leaders about this threat.
The American Society of Civil Engineers Philadelphia Younger Member Forum Volunteer Leader. The program supports ASCE Philadelphia Section members under 36 years of age. The forum provides networking opportunities, interaction with schools and the general public to promote civil engineering, and enhances career development. It has been a valuable stewardship partner to TTF, bringing volunteers to enthusiastically dig holes, and plant and fence trees, from Friends Hospital Campus in Frankford to a backyard in Abington.
Feliz Filadelphia, Nonprofit Steward Award. Feliz began as “Born to Play,” a baseball program for Olney youth. By renovating the abandoned clubhouse at the Hammond Avenue fields (adjacent to Tacony Creek Park), Feliz expanded their original mission by adding exercise programs for adults. Although maintaining its Latino roots, Feliz Filadelfia offers programming for everyone.
While focused on Olney, Feliz welcomes participants from throughout the city. Feliz Filadelphia supports TTF cleanups and park programs. This group is a model steward of the Hammond fields. TTF looks forward to partnering on environmental education programs and creating a link between the fields and Tacony Creek Park for the benefit of neighbors.
EY, Corporate Steward Award. EY is one of the biggest accounting firms in the United States. In 2022, the Philadelphia office volunteered in Tacony Creek Park for Earth Day. Its employees have consistently partnered with TTF on a number of clean-up and storm drain marking activities since then.
James Morawski, Public Leader. James, or Jimmy to Tacony Creek Park locals, has been a Philadelphia Parks and Recreation seasonal maintenance attendant at the Ferko Playground and the area leading to the Tacony Creek Park gateway at I Street and Ramona Avenue for many years. Morawksi takes incredible pride in his work, and the cleanliness of the park reflects that. He makes the park, neighborhood, and city a better place to live.
Drini Hamza, Youth Champion. An Abington Friends School senior, Drini removed deer fencing and invasive plants at TTF’s very first restoration project along Jenkintown Creek as his Eagle Scout service project. TTF’s first Delaware River Watershed Initiative project in 2014, this award-winning work continued along this creek reach for a number of years, consisting of rain gardens and riparian buffers. Hamza saw the need for maintenance at this site and worked with TTF to develop a plan and gather the information and resources needed. He recruited volunteers from AFS, his friends, troop, and family to lead the activities.
Jermaine Ridley, Youth Champion. A consistent volunteer, Jermaine shows up often for Tacony Creek Park cleanups and works hard to keep the park and gateways clean and appealing to potential visitors. Ridley is a model steward for TTF and inspires other volunteers through his hard work and determination.
Susan Myerov, Legacy Award. Founding Board member Susan Myerov, enthusiastically served on the TTF Board for 18 years, most as secretary, and a couple as president and co-president. Myerov was dedicated, rarely missing a board or committee meeting or a special event, and lent a hand and smile at plantings, cleanups, and community celebrations. Myerov’s presence had a positive impact on staff and strengthened her ability to serve as a knowledgeable ambassador. She talked to everyone about TTF’s accomplishments.
Myerov referred organizations to TTF to speak at an event or conference, or to discuss a potential partnership and shared grant and program information regularly. She generously supported TTF and recruited family and friends. Myerov would request a deep dive into financials at board meetings, showing a sign of good stewardship. Her thoughtfulness and deep investment over the years have made TTF a better organization.
Jay Coreano, Legacy Award. Jay and his family — his wife, children, and cousins — are part of the TTF family. TTF connected with Jay during the summer of 2019, when he was selected as the artist for the Community Cans project. Coreano has inspired TTF with his creativity, warmth, curiosity and passion. He has become a Tacony Creek Park champion in his family, with work colleagues, with the business and artist community, and with anyone he meets in the park.
During Covid, Coreano painted six strikingly colorful animal murals at busy spots along the trail, engaging with everyone who passed by, and enabling TTF to maintain a human presence. Coreano created places for people to gather and raised up this neglected green space through art. People still “meet at the deer” at Bingham and Ashdale Streets.
Coreano conceived of and coordinated the annual Birds of a Feather Earth Day art event to celebrate the VURT Collective bird murals in the park. Coreano also led the River Alive Learning Trail mosaic community days and created beautiful rain poetry on the walkways. TTF recently installed six of the Community Cans in Tacony Creek Park — the first trash cans in the park in years. He volunteered his time to create new colorful and inspiring can covers. Coreano received the Legacy Award because of his devotion to TTF work and Tacony Creek Park.