If you’re an avid cyclist, runner or walker, you’ve likely crossed paths with Jonathan DeHart on the Circuit Trails. Jonathan started walking and running on the trails in 1987 when he moved to the Jenkintown area, and from 2006-2012 cycled about 19,000 miles to and from work every day – 6,000 miles on the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT). As one of many “frequent flyers” on the Circuit Trails, Jonathan’s experiences are nothing short of incredible and fascinating! Check out a few highlights below:
How many miles did you ride when you commuted on the Circuit and what trails did you take?
My family and I have felt amazingly blessed to have access to all the trails in the Delaware Valley, even right within the Philly urban area. However, we didn’t know of the concerted effort to interconnect them until recently.
Of my 40 mile daily commute from Glenside to the Philly Naval Shipyard, I did about 12 miles on the SRT and occasionally added Forbidden Drive. There’s a great tranquility to be enjoyed as one glides along the Schuylkill River in the early morning and at the end of a long work day!
Can you share your relationship to trails?
During my early years in this area, I was primarily running with my wife or alone. As God gave us each of our three children, we transitioned to pushing one or more in a single or double jogger. One by one they moved onto two wheeling and/or running.
From 1987-2006, I logged 32,000 miles of running while training on the Pennypack walking and bridle trails, Forbidden Drive, Horseshoe Trail and Tyler State Park. As a family, we've also hiked a lot of the off-road trails on either side of Forbidden Drive, Pennypack and the Appalachian Trail.
What’s your favorite trail?
Of those with which I’m familiar, the Perkiomen stands out. The mostly hard-packed dirt trail hugs the narrow Perkiomen Creek. It’s beautiful, peaceful and not heavily trafficked. As a family, we made most of our memories in Pennypack, Forbidden Drive and the Appalachian Trail.
We’re really looking forward to the Cresheim Valley and Tookany Creek trails being developed. We’ll be able to hop on the trails in less than a mile or so from our home in Glenside, PA. We can’t wait!
Can you share a few advantages of commuting on the Circuit?
Commuting by bike benefits one’s health and fitness. It also helps to clear one’s head and recharge. As humans we were designed to physically work hard and find time to unwind for R&R. We really need to be outside daily, moving and exerting ourselves! This is especially important for those of us with primarily desk jockey jobs. Biking does have its risks (I’ve had two serious commuting accidents), but those are greatly mitigated on the Circuit Trails.
How has the Circuit changed your lifestyle?
The trails in this region have had an enormous influence on our family. We have all grown to love the outdoors, make exercise routines and enjoy God’s creation! Personally, I have worked in air quality for more than 15 years. Engine exhaust pollutants have serious public health impacts, especially for children and the elderly. So the less time I’m driving, the less I am contributing to that significant problem. Biking also includes cost savings. Maintaining and fueling a bike costs much less than a car!
I’ve also become much more willing to be outside in less than optimal conditions. In the heat, runners, bikers and walkers generate their own AC! When it’s cold, they have heaters driven by those pumping arms and legs. Recently, our youngest left the house when it was in the low 20s to ride over to Kutztown and back. He let me tag along, and I did 60 of his 105 miles. Long winter rides are really not such a big deal, with a few additional clothing items.
Aside from riding on the Circuit, you have quite the long history of competitions. Can you share a little background?
Before I moved on to biking as my primary outdoor activity, I was an avid runner. I found my niche in ultramarathons. Ultrarunning does not require special physical attributes. Like life in general, it just calls for continuing to put one foot in front of the other. It develops grit – sticking to the task at hand!
I also discovered that as my body is kept busy with the simple activity of running, my mind is freed to focus. So I applied that focus to review and think about passages of the Bible that I had committed to memory. This helped me to stimulate productive thought, even during competition. A few of my competitive high points include the following:
-Finished third (7:37) on a continental coast-to-coast run in Panama! Yup, down there it’s only 50.5 miles, following the Trans-Isthmus Highway! This tropical rainforest race starts at 10 p.m. to temper the sweltering heat and humidity. I finished at sunrise, well ahead of a bevy of U.S. Special Forces young bucks.
-Finished second (19:30) in the Old Dominion 100 Mile, a footrace and horseback race. The second and third place horseback riders finished just a few minutes before me.
-Finished first (11:48), setting a course record, in the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Ohiopyle-to-Johnstown trail course. The course is arguably one of the toughest ultras with 10,300 ft elevation gain and loss.
As our family grew, I ratcheted back on the miles and started pushing the kids in joggers, doing more marathons and shorter runs (5Ks and 10Ks). Here’s one highlight competing with our kids:
-Finished 12th (3:12) in the Potter County God’s Country Marathon and qualifying for the Boston Marathon on that 1,100 ft elevation gain course.
For all the bike lovers out there, what model do you ride?
I’ve used a hybrid bike for all my commuting. My 2006 Marin Mill Valley is an 18-speed (Gossamer FSA chain rings and crank and Shimano Tiagra deraillers) with carbon fork and seatstay, 32 spoke alloy 700c wheels (Shimano Ultegra), and Continental Contact 700 (28 x 1 ¼ x 1 ¾) tires with fenders, a back rack and two panniers, Blackburn headlight on the end of my straight bar-fitted aerobars and wide Cateye blinking taillight. A bike like this is a great compromise between ruggedness and speed.
Keep an eye out for a guest blog post from the 19,000-mile man on tips for commuting!
Photo Credit: Jonathan DeHart
By Anya Saretzky, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
In the northeast part of the U.S., a bi-state project called the Circuit Trails is making waves in the walking and biking world. This network, when complete, will include 750 miles of trails in the Greater Philadelphia region covering nine counties in southeast Pennsylvania and South Jersey. Today, 300 miles are complete, with 50 currently in development and 400 yet to be built. Completion is slated for 2040. It’s an ambitious plan, no doubt, but it’s one that captures a vision the region has embraced and will see to completion.
Read more about the region's burgeoning network and the elements that make the Circuit Trails a strong and thriving project on the Rails-to-Trails blog: http://bit.ly/1P3kbcO
Photo courtesy: Mark Willard
By Steve Taylor
The arrival of cooler weather can give new perspectives on The Circuit Trails. For Linda McGrane, President of the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia, getting out in the later months is about enjoying “the crisp, refreshing autumn air, as well as the colorful fall foliage. As long as the roads are clear and dry—that is, free of snow and ice—I continue to cycle into the winter months.”
Jed Kornbluh, national sales manager for cyclewear company Verge Sport, is also a year-round cyclist. His favorite Circuit segments to ride this time of year are both on the Delaware and Raritan Canal Trail. “The first is from Stockton to Milford (and on to Easton if you cross the river into Pennsylvania), and the second is Lambertville to Kingston. These are two very different trails. The first section starts and finishes along leaf-swept gravel and cinder with the river on the western edge and rolling country highway Route 29 on the east. The other stretch starts in the bustling village of Lambertville, rolls along through historic Washington Crossing State Park and eventually goes from country to urban just after the Trenton Country Club section.”
Jed has this cool weather tip: “Remember to layer. This time of year can be tricky, with mornings in the 30s and afternoons in the 50s. It's best to pack a variety of clothing but the best options include vests, light jackets or convertible items (with removable sleeves). When I travel on the canal paths I generally ride a bike equipped with a large handlebar bag, which has enough space for tools, food and spare clothes.”
To this, Linda adds, “Remember also to cover your head, hands and feet adequately. Body heat escapes most quickly through the extremities. Another important point: Even when the temperature is cooler, you still need to stay hydrated.”
When the temperatures get wintry, John Boyle, research director for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, uses some special gear for his often windy bike commute across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, including handlebar mittens and a face-shielding balaclava. In the coldest weather, he breaks out his ski helmet, goggles and electric socks.
On the weekends, John enjoys getting out with his family for walks on The Circuit in less specialized attire. “The Pennypack and Perkiomen are great walking trails, but the D&L Trail may be the best. I like the Nockamixon Cliffs / Palisades section.”
Linda also enjoys the Pennypack Trail, especially the hillier part between Bustleton Avenue and Pine Road. She appreciates trails that allow her to ride parallel to busy and non-bike-friendly roads. “I like the Chester Valley Trail, since it allows me to cycle safely up and down the Route 202 Corridor. The Leiper-Smedley Trail near Swarthmore lets me ride near and over the Blue Route.
“Continuing to cycle outdoors, regardless of the cooler temperatures, provides a therapeutic dose of daylight and allows you to remain connected with other people and with the environment.”
Photo Credit: Photo 1 Jed Kornbluh (on D&R Canal Trail); Photo 2 Howard Hess (on Chester Valley Trail)
Throw those helmets on, get on your bike and head out to two new trail openings this week!
Tomorrow is the opening of the Pennypack Trail Extension, being held at Welsh Road Trailhead at Route 63. The new, 2-mile stretch of the Pennypack Trail from the Welsh Road Trailhead to the Byberry Road Trailhead is one of the most scenic stretches of the entire trail.
Then, next Thursday is the opening of the on-road trails of the Camden Greenway. This marks the addition of 4.3 miles of separated bike lanes to Camden, making connections between existing trails along the Camden Waterfront, the Ben Franklin Bridge and North Camden
Don’t miss out on both of these significant milestones for the Circuit! Find more details on our events page here.
It's been only 5 months since Montgomery County broke ground on the extension of the Pennypack Trail in Huntingdon Valley, where County Commissioner Josh Shapiro declared that "we will open this trail in the fall". Much to our delight the Commissioner kept his promise and so once again we will be at another splended ribbon cutting.
Like the Doylestown Bike Hike event last week the County will be opening two trail segments.
Please plan to attend the ribbon cutting Friday November 14th at 2PM in the trailhead parking area at the intersection of Welsh and Terwood Road. Attendees will then either bike or take a shuttle bus to the new pedestrian bridge for a second ribbon cutting.
According to a Philly.com story that appeared today, Montgomery County is going to triple the Pennypack Trail by building 3.8 miles from Lorimar Park to Byberry Road and Lorimar Park to Rockledge Borough Park
The project, which is estimated to cost $1.6 million, will start this summer and take about one year to complete the entire section. It will be a gravel path, suitable for walking, running and recreational riding. It will follow the dormant Fox Chase to Newtown rail line.
With Montgomery County taking this action, one has to ask, will now Bucks County get behind buiding the trail along the rail line to Newtown?
With so much attention on waterfront development in Center City these days, the North Delaware seems lost in the conversation. But that doesn’t mean the stretch of waterfront real estate isn’t seeing its fair share of activity.
Thanks to the Delaware River City Corporation (DRCC)—the organization in charge of spearheading the North Delaware Greenway, an integral part of the much larger East Coast Greenway—trail and open space construction has taken off.
In 2008, the nonprofit’s efforts resulted in the creation of the Pennypack on the Delaware Trail, a paved trail connecting Pennypack Park to Pennypack Creek. Then, in October 2012, DRCC broke ground on the Port Richmond Trail, a 12-foot-wide, 1.5-mile asphalt trail that will connect the Port Richmond neighborhood to the waterfront and extend north along the Delaware. Completion is expected within a year.
Looking forward, the two-mile K&T Trail (planned for an abandoned riverfront freight rail line) is in its final design stage, with construction expected in the next two years. Also on the docket is the Baxter Trail, a two-mile northward extension of the trail from Pennypack Creek.
“By 2014, 60 percent of the Greenway will be built,” says DRCC Executive Director Tom Branigan.
There are still gaps in the 11-mile route that will be difficult to connect due to environmental issues, property rights or other constraints, but Branigan is confident that those lapses can be bridged and the North Delaware Greenway can be completed by 2020.
The DRCC also has an eye towards building even more meaningful connections between the waterfront to its adjacent neighborhoods. "Our ultimate mission is to connect the waterfront to neighborhoods and improve access," explains Branigan, who adds that those efforts won’t be able to take off until current projects are wrapped up.
Source: Tom Branigan, Executive Director, DRCC
Writer: Greg Meckstroth
Original Story here
In early August, Montgomery County's commissioners approved a $17 Million Open Space budget. The budget includes $3.836 million to pay for design, construction or acquisition of several county trail projects, including:
Chester Valley Trail
Schuylkill River Trail