North Philly’s Hidden Gem: Tacony Creek Park


North Philly’s Hidden Gem: Tacony Creek Park


Imagine living less than a half mile away from a sprawling 300-acre public park without ever knowing it existed. Well, that was my experience before learning about Tacony Creek Park from Julie Slavet, Executive Director of Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF)

In chatting with Julie at an event in Juniata Park, I mentioned I lived nearby. That’s when Julie asked if I’d ever explored Tacony Creek Park, to which I said, “I’ve never even heard of it. Is it close by?” Julie looked at me stunned and informed me that the park entrance was just around the corner from where we were. Sensing my feeling of surprise, she invited me to participate in one of TTF’s walking tours through the park to experience it for myself.

I was lucky enough to join TTF staff and volunteers for a walking tour of the park on a sunny Friday in February. The tour was aimed at showcasing the park as a community resource and highlighting People of the Park, a William Penn Foundation funded series of “portrait signs” along the park trails that tell stories of diverse community members and the variety of ways they enjoy the park. After four hours and 3.2 miles of walking, listening, and learning, here are some key takeaways from my time at the park.

North Philly’s Hidden Gem of Green Space

As a resident of Kensington and Lower Northeast areas of the city for nearly five years, I have traveled to FDR Park, Bartram’s Garden, the Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, and the Wissahickon to experience nature and access dedicated green spaces. All those parks are beautiful and beloved community resources but were not centrally located to me or my neighbors living in Frankford, Juniata, Lawncrest, and Olney. However, Tacony Creek Park runs right through each of those sections of Philadelphia and offers trails, wildlife habitats, community programming, and much more.

When I arrived at the park entrance on the border of Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties, I expected to see a massive sign that said, “Welcome to Tacony Creek Park.” Instead, I found Julie and her staff standing near a yellow metal chain and a bus stop sized sign marking the unassuming entrance to the park. We began our tour, and I soon caught a glimpse of this sprawling urban green space that has now become a regular destination for me and my dog Oliver.



As we entered the park, we were welcomed by a sea of barren winter trees along the most serene looking creek and bridge. Had I just seen a photo of this space, I would have never thought this was in Philadelphia, let alone in my neighborhood. As we walked along the 3.2 miles of trail, I was in awe of the wildlife, murals, and people of all ages, races, and cultural identities using the park. About halfway through the tour, I saw a huge banner at one of the park entrances highlighting Creek Care Days, a cleanup event hosted by TTF one Saturday a month. Julie mentioned Creek Care Days are just one of many community engagement efforts that keep Tacony Creek Park clean. TTF also hosts bird watching events, fishing tutorials, and other community events and programs. By the end of the tour, this city slicker was able to identify an American robin, learned about the issues of sewage water runoff, and was proud to have picked up bags of trash to help maintain the park.


According to TTF’s website, the woodlands and meadows that make up Tacony Creek Park provide year-round habitat for over 100 species of birds and other wildlife. The 3.2-mile paved trail that runs along the creek is part of The Circuit Trails network supported by the Foundation’s Watershed Protection grantmaking, providing access to the park and opportunities for recreation, exercise, and enjoyment of nature not often associated with North Philadelphia. As a part of the Circuit Trails network, this trail can connect people to more than 370 miles of trails across our region, but more importantly, it can connect us to our neighbors and to amazing opportunities close to home.

People of the Park Celebrates North Philly’s Diversity

As part of the Tacony Creek Park Master Plan, TTF and Olney Culture Lab rolled out People of the Park, a series of “portrait signs” along the park trails that reflect the diversity of park users, their special relationships with the park, and the many ways in which they utilize this urban green space.

I was excited to see the four narrative signs featuring personal stories and experiences of park users to help me gain perspective on how my fellow community members love and experience the park. As a woman of color, accessing green spaces has not always been welcoming, largely because of historic discrimination and systemic racism. Incidents like the Black birdwatcher in Central Park getting the police called on him or a family of color having a cookout in the park, only to be harassed, often come to mind as I enter a park. I was beyond ecstatic to see that the “people of the park” reflected the populations and communities surrounding the park, including mostly people of color. I didn’t realize the impact these “portrait signs” would have on me as a park user, as they truly highlight the impact of and need for representations of different communities, heritages, races, and ethnicities as users of our city’s parks.



Dr. Rhoda Moise aka Dr. Rho, one of the featured People of the Park, used the park throughout the pandemic to train for the biking portion of a triathlon. Maria Vazquez cares for the park as an homage to her heritage and participates in clean-ups, tree plantings, maple sugar harvesting, and other events/programming hosted at the park. Seri Chao, an Olney/Oak Lane resident since 1990, uses the park as a runner and to connect with the outdoors. Tom and Savannah McHale are quoted as saying that they “live” in the park with how much they utilize it, even getting married in their yard that borders the park.

You can learn more about People of the Park here or by taking a walk through Tacony Creek Park.

Illegal Dumping is a Growing Concern

Illegal dumping has been a growing problem across Philadelphia, heavily impacting low-income residents and communities of color. According to a Lenfest Institute for Journalism poll surveying 1,200 Philadelphia residents about the quality of life in the city, 60% of respondents believe that reducing dumping should be a top priority. I have seen illegal dumping in action with pick-up trucks unloading old tires in vacant lots near my home, but I was unaware of how massive a problem it was in our public parks, including Tacony Creek Park.



During my four-hour tour alone, TTF had to call 311 about five times to report piles of furniture, tires, and mattresses dumped in or on the edge of the park. In chatting with a TTF high school intern about the issues of illegal dumping during the tour, he mentioned that, while the park remains a beautiful refuge, litter and debris have a really negative impact on people’s perception of the park and the communities that surround it.

TTF tries to make illegal dumping difficult for perpetrators by blocking vehicle access into the park and its trails. This has worked as a deterrent, but people still find ways to illegally dump on the park’s edges near main roads. TTF also finds that a lack of trash receptacles and lighting add to the park’s issues of illegal dumping and litter. For MLK Day of Service this year, Julie and the TTF team hosted a park clean up to combat illegal dumping with dozens of volunteers, finding hundreds of tires on top of the 400 tires removed from the park earlier that month

If you are interested in helping keep Tacony Creek Park clean and beautiful, sign up for a volunteer shift with TTF here.



When signing up for this tour, I had no idea it would impact me on so many levels. From learning about a sprawling green space in my neighborhood to learning from the people actively working with community to ensure this park remains a resource for years to come, I am thankful to the TTF team for such an awesome experience.

You can schedule a walking tour with the TTF team to learn more about the park by emailing or call the TTF office at 215-744-1853.


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