Community development, environmental restoration, and educational reform must go hand in hand.
We seek partnerships among advocates for each in order to combine forces and resources. We believe that youth have a crucial role to play in this process. This conviction comes from three decades of work in low-income communities on projects that simultaneously address issues of poverty, race, deteriorated neighborhoods, polluted water, and troubled schools.
West Philadelphia Landscape Project
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Mill Creek Coalition
The Mill Creek Coalition (MCC) was a group of residents, businessmen, politicians, and clergy from across the Mill Creek neighborhood. The Coalition actively promoted community development in the community, and its Environment Committee helped educate fellow community members about the challenges posed by the former creek's buried floodplain.

Mill Creek Coalition

WPLP Partnership, 1998-2002

In spring 1998, we began a partnership with the Mill Creek Coalition (MCC), a group of residents, businessmen, politicians, and clergy from across the Mill Creek neighborhood. In response to concerns of MCC members, the focus of WPLP was extended from public school education, water resource management, and open space planning to tie in other community development issues as well, including housing conditions, health and safety related to the presence of the buried creek, employment, and the creation of local business opportunities.

The Mill Creek Coalition was organized by Mill Creek resident Crystal Cornicher. Prior to organizing the Coalition, Crystal had served as the Vice President of the Home and School Association at Sulzberger Middle School, where she met Anne Spirn and learned about WPLP. Together with MCC Vice President Preston Nasir and Frances Walker, chair of the MCC Environment Committee, Crystal helped launch several MCC projects that partnered with WPLP.

In summer 1999, WPLP and MCC performed a survey of basement conditions in the neighborhood to assess the effects of water damage on the buried floodplain of the former Mill Creek. This work captured the attention of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Water Department. In 2000, the Coalition asked Anne Spirn to offer a series of classes to residents about the neighborhood’s history. Many of the course attendees were long-time residents of Mill Creek, but were surprised to learn that the buried Mill Creek was the source of many problems.

MCC Members served as strong, successful advocates for investments in the neighborhood. The MCC worked with the Water Department, which performed its own survey and launched some mitigation efforts to curb basement flooding. In addition, the Mayor’s office launched an initiative to reduce storm-water runoff in the neighborhood.

Since that time the Mill Creek Coalition has disbanded, but the success of their early projects demonstrates the power of a community that can read their landscape and organize for change.

WPLP/Mill Creek Coalition Projects