Social distance ambassadors to be stationed at Wissahickon Valley Park

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia Department of Parks & Recreation will have social distance ambassadors stationed at Wissahickon Valley Park in response to the growing crowds.

The ambassadors will be located at popular entrances to the park and trailheads. They will be there to welcome visitors and educate them on safe and responsible park usage, the department said.

According to Parks & Rec, all of Philadelphia's watershed parks have seen spike in visitation since March amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Park rangers will also be on duty at those parks to remind visitors that swimming in the city's rivers, streams and waterways is prohibited and "extremely dangerous - even for the most experienced swimmers."

Jumping into the water from any height can cause serious injury or death, the department said. Visitors are also reminded that gatherings of 50 people or more are prohibited in all Philadelphia parks.

Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said the city's parks and trails have been "a vital lifeline for thousands of residents, offering a safe, healthy way to get outdoors and recreate during the pandemic."

However, she said there have been problems that need to be addressed.

"As the summer progresses, we are seeing the results of this increased usage: trash and debris, swimming in prohibited areas, and residents parking illegally and blocking park access to emergency vehicles," she said. "Our ambassadors and rangers will be out this weekend to educate and remind residents of safe and responsible park usage."

Rangers will continue to issue citations for illegal parking and alert the Philadelphia Police Department of any safety issues within the park. Additional signage reminding users of park rules and safe usage will also be added this weekend.

Parks & Recreation and Park Friends Groups ask visitors to:

*Carry out what they carry in.
*Not swim or bathe in any park waterways.
*Not jump or dive into any park waterways.
*Wear a mask.

*Maintain at least six feet of distance from other visitors.
*Park in designated parking areas only.
*Keep dogs on a leash at all times.
*Use the bathroom before your visit, and refrain from leaving human waste in or around the park.
*Follow all posted park rules and regulations.

More information is available at the Friends of the Wissahickon website.
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