When it comes to defending cyclists around the Greater Philadelphia region, Stuart Leon is the go-to guy. Stuart has been in bicycle crash law for nearly 30 years and works exclusively for bicyclists. When he’s not in the court room defending his clients, you can find him cycling on the Schuylkill River Trail with his wife and daughter. Here’s what Stuart had to say about his involvement with the Circuit Trails and bicycle safety:
Can you describe your connection to the Circuit Trails?
I've been riding from the Art Museum to Manayunk and Conshohocken since the late 1980's. I first learned about the Circuit trails through the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and have been a fan ever since!
What is your favorite trail?
I was overjoyed when the Schuylkill River Trail opened from Locust Street in Center City connecting me directly to Kelly Drive. I use that trail recreationally and for commuting every week – that’s probably my favorite. I value the safe and easy access to the trail at Kelly Drive instead of working my way over to and up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on the streets.
Are you a part of any cyclist groups?
I belong to the Philadelphia Bicycle Messenger Association. I attended the Manayunk Bridge opening with my cyclist group and am looking forward to the exciting kick-off event on April 15!
Can you discuss primary threats to bicycle safety?
As a lawyer working only for bicycle accident and crash victims, I see the worst case scenarios. The primary threats to a bicyclist's safety are the following:
Where does your passion for the Circuit stem from?
I love the Circuit Trails because they are designed for the commuter and provide a safe path to many parts of the city and suburbs.
Photo Credit: Suart Leon
We are very excited to shine the Circuit Spotlight on our very own Patrick Starr! When Patrick is not leading statewide programming at Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) and helping to make future connections to the Circuit Trails, you can find him enjoying the trails on his bike. We caught up with Patrick to learn more about his role at PEC and the Circuit Trails. Here’s what he had to say:
What is your role at PEC? Can you discuss a few of the task forces you are a part of?
I am statewide vice president for programming. Getting Pennsylvanians outside for recreation and to enjoy natural resources is a major thrust of PEC’s work. We are working on multi-purpose trail networks in several other regions of Pennsylvania in addition to the Circuit Trails. Most notably we are a leader in the Industrial Heartland Trail Coalition connecting much of western PA with Ohio and West Virginia, as well as, a northeast PA trail forum.
How long have you been Pennsylvania Vice-Chair of the Circuit Trails Coalition? How did you first get involved?
The Circuit Trails Coalition first elected state Vice-Chairs in 2013 and I have been serving in the role since. I have been involved with the Circuit Trails since its inception in 2012. PEC played a key role in preparing a TIGER grant in 2009-10 to fund the “regional trail network” that was the precursor of the Circuit Trails. We collaborated on the application with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and many of the other current players in the Circuit Trails Coalition.
From your perspective, what makes the Circuit Trails so unique?
What makes the Circuit Trails so unique is that it is a “vision” for a complete system of connected trails, yet even BIGGER is that there is a coordinated group of people who are organized to make that happen. It really matters that it isn’t just a “vision,” but more importantly that dozens of non-profits, numerous government agencies and hundreds of leaders are collaborating to build out this system and make it excellent!
What’s your favorite trail to cycle on?
The trail I ride most is the Schuylkill River Trail because it’s close to me via Schuylkill Banks and allows me to reach fairly distant points in Chester and Montgomery Counties. It’s scenic and takes me to interesting towns such as Manayunk, Conshohocken and Norristown, as well as, to Valley Forge National Historical Park. It’s a fun ride with all sorts of users, so it’s also really good people watching!
Are there any trails in development that you are particularly excited for?
A longtime favorite of mine is what I call the Delaware River Trail in Philadelphia. I have been personally involved in creating it since 2000 and serve as a board member of the Delaware River City Corporation which is building a big chunk of it together with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation. Segments of this larger trail are known as the Port Richmond Trail, the Baxter Trail and the Kensington & Tacony Trail. When complete, this trail will connect to Spring Garden Street Greenway, another pet project of mine. Several new segments of this trail will be opening in 2016 and 2017.
What are your goals for the Circuit Trails in 2016?
To build more segments of the Circuit Trails! Also to raise awareness about the re-brand of the Circuit Trails. I think that the Circuit Trails has attained such viability and momentum that the re-brand reflects that we’ve already advanced from “a great idea” to an inevitable reality. That just makes me thrilled!
In just a month, spring will be here, marking a new season of trail usage! There are several exciting Circuit Trails developments coming soon for users in 2016. Walkers, joggers, cyclers, and individuals who enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle will soon be able to enjoy these new trails, bike lanes, paved paths and more!
Below please find a preview of five new projects coming soon to New Jersey and Pennsylvania trail users!
1. Lawrence Hopewell Trail – Mercer County, NJ
This multipurpose, paved, stone dust segment of the Lawrence Hopewell trail will extend for two miles from Pennington-Rocky Hill Road to Cleveland Road. Construction on the west side of Carter Road is 26% complete, with the remainder to be finished by July 2016. Ground conditions discovered during construction required re-routing the trail by about 50 feet and Hopewell Township, which is managing the project, is waiting for updated permits from NJDEP.
The project is funded by the Regional Trails Program, Hopewell Township and NJDOT’s FY13 Bikeway Program.
2. Chester Creek Trail – Delaware County, PA
Chester Creek Trail, a planned 2.8 mile rail-trail in central Delaware County, will follow Chester Creek along the Civil War-era Chester Creek Branch line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Construction for the trail began in May of 2015 and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2016. When complete, Delaware County trail will be able to utilize the trail as a commuting alternative as well as a recreational outlet for walkers, hikers, cyclists and runners.
The project is sponsored by Delaware County and is being constructed with funding from PennDOT.
3. Baxter Trail – Philadelphia County, PA
When complete, the Baxter Trail will be a 1.8 mile trail connecting the existing Pennypack Trail to the existing bike lanes on State Road. The future trail, expected to be completed in spring 2016, will pass through diverse man-made environments and natural habitats and provide Philadelphians with easy access to the Delaware River.
Project sponsors include the Delaware River City Corporation, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the Commerce Department, Holmesburg Fish and Game Protective Association, the Philadelphia Water Department and the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments.
4. Sullivan’s Bridge (formerly Betzwood Bridge) – Montgomery County, PA
The new 14-foot wide Sullivan’s Bridge will be a 0.5-mile connection linking the Schuylkill River Trail with the trail system in Valley Forge National Historical Park and is expected to be completed in spring of 2016. The pedestrian and cycling bridge will replace the current, rickety, 3-foot-wide boardwalk-style walkway bolted onto the side of the Route 422 bridge.
The bridge project is sponsored by Montgomery County.
5. Kinkora Trail in Burlington County, NJ
The Kinkora Trail, Mansfield Community Park to Springfield Veteran’s Memorial Park segment, is part of an overall 13-mile trail. Burlington County is currently constructing this 3-mile trail segment that will include a 10’ wide asphalt shared use path from Mansfield’s Community Park trailhead in the Village of Columbus through two preserved farms. Bicyclists will be able to connect to Springfield’s Veteran’s Memorial Park via shared lanes on Skunk Island Road. This trail will be fully constructed and open to the public in Spring 2016.
The project is funded by Regional Trails Program and Burlington County.
The Circuit Trails are progressing in New Jersey! Last week, the Christie Administration made a significant step for trail development and preservation. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin announced that about $1.1 million in recreational trail grants will be used toward improving trails and enhancing outdoor experiences across the state, including a number of grants for Circuit Trails.
Part of the Recreational Trails Program, the grants aim to improve public access to open space, provide outdoor recreation opportunities, develop trail linkages and create urban and suburban trail corridors.
We’ve compiled a list for you below of the projects that will advance the Circuit, amounting to about $132,000 in Circuit-related grants! To read more about the 2015 trail grants and see the full list of grants, please go to the NJ.gov website.
2015 Approved Recreational Trail Projects on the Circuit Trails:
Burlington County, Delaware River Heritage Trail: $24,000
Camden County Department of Parks, Grove Street Connector Trail: $24,000
Cooper's Ferry Partnership, Camden-Merchantville Circuit Connector Trail: $24,000
Hopewell Township, Lawrence Hopewell Trail Hillman and Christensen Segments: $24,000
Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corporation, Lawrence Hopewell Trail Signage: $24,000
Lawrence Township, Lawrence Hopewell Trail Carson Woods Segment: $12,000
By Katie Harris, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
The Philadelphia region is home to one of the country’s largest trail networks, a visionary model that, when complete, will incorporate 750 miles of connected trails leading through urban landscapes and rural countryside. The system is called the Circuit Trails, and the network will be accessible to all residents and visitors, regardless of age, income or experience level.
The network is revolutionizing the way we view trail systems and providing safe routes to business, employment and cultural destinations in the region.
Read the Rails-to-Trails blog to see 10 of the many reasons the Circuit Trails are remarkable: http://bit.ly/1KKn3JL
Photo Courtesy: Montgomery County Planning Commission
The Circuit Coalition is made up of 65 non-profit organizations who show #traillove all year long. Our friends help beautify the trails, raise the profiles of trails in their region and advance the completion of a comprehensive, interconnected multi-use trail network in the region. But of course, the Circuit Trails would be nothing without their loyal users!
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we caught up with trail advocates to learn why they love riding, walking, biking, rollerblading, ice skating, paddle boarding and cross country skiing #onthecircuit. See what they have to say and show some #traillove this Valentine’s Day!
#1: All of our trails are so beautiful in their own way. From riding along the Delaware River, to passing through Pennypack Park, to crossing the Manayunk Bridge, there are always wonderful sights along the way.
#2: I am a long distance runner use the Circuit Trails as my training grounds for marathons. It’s always very refreshing to get outdoors for my daily exercise routine.
#3: Gyms are often crowded and noisy. I love running on the trails and enjoying the great outdoors while also getting a workout.
#4: I love to rollerblade and the Schuylkill River Trail is the best trail to ride on. It’s easy to navigate, and I don’t have to worry about skating up any difficult hills!
#5: Getting on the Circuit is good for us on both a personal and a community level. On a personal level, it can improve our health outcomes and make us happier. On a community level, there are environmental, economic and social benefits.
Use this holiday to appreciate not only the ones you love, but also the experiences you love – like getting out on the Circuit Trails. Consider using the suggested social media content below to show your trail love and appreciation!
Instructions: Show some #traillove by posting a picture of your favorite trail on social media! If available, use the trail name as the location and use the hashtag #onthecircuit and tag us at @circuittrails [Twitter handle] and @TheCircuitTrails [Facebook and Instagram handle].
Facebook: Celebrating this Valentine’s Day #onthecircuit! [Insert trail name] is one of my favorite @TheCircuitTrails.
Twitter: Celebrating this V-day by showing some #traillove #onthecircuit! [Insert trail name] is my favorite @circuittrails.
Instagram: Celebrating this Valentine’s Day by taking a [walk/run/ride/other] on [insert trail name], part of the @thecircuittrails. #valentinesday #traillove #onthecircuit
Top Reasons to Spend Time Outdoors During Winter
Below-freezing temperatures are back and it’s easy to get discouraged from stepping outside, let alone exercising outdoors! We looked into the benefits of exercising outdoors and the results are very positive! In addition to health benefits, there are numerous exercise benefits that you may not be aware of. Check out several reasons you should head outdoors #onthecircuit this winter:
1. Relieve stress
Taking in daily doses of fresh air and sunlight has been proven to dramatically improve moods and relieve stress. Additionally, fewer people are on the Circuit Trails during the winter season which allows for a peaceful and meditative walk, run or ride.
2. Boost creativity and focus
Studies show that walking outdoors can improve focus and even boost creativity. When you are engaging in physical activity outdoors, you are removed from electronic devices and being forced to problem solve in a different way. Without distractions, your attention span becomes more acute. Although this tip is applicable all-year long, when it’s cold, people are less likely to step away from the computer and enjoy the great outdoors.
3. Cure the “Winter Blues”
The winter blues, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is believed to be a result of shorter days in the winter with less natural light. The treatment? Spending more time outdoors. Yes, it’s dark and cold outside but it’s important to look at the bright side: engaging in daily exercises can improve your energy levels during the day and help you to sleep more soundly at night.
4. Chilly weather won’t get you sick
Despite the common misconception, cold weather does not make you sick. Spending time outside actually lowers the chance of catching any viruses you could potentially contract at a gym. Additionally, spending time outdoors and being exposed to the sun gives you Vitamin D which is essential for fighting off all kinds of diseases and illnesses.
5. Get an even better workout
During winter, runners and bikers are faced with obstacles such as ice, slush or wind which add an extra challenge. Additionally, when the temperature is low, you are more likely to race through your work out and burn more calories which you are already doing due to your body raising its temperature. Cold temps can be used as a motivation to quicken your steps, just be safe out there!
Looking for tips to have a healthy and safe workout this winter? Check out our other blog post here and get out #onthecircuit!
Active.com: 3 Reasons to Go Outside This Winter
As KYW put it, “there’s no such thing as a snow day for Mark Fallon,” a senior naturalist for 13 years at Briar Bush Nature Center in Abington. Following a news piece on Fallon in 2014, we caught up with him this week to interview him about his cross-country ski experiences on the Circuit Trails. Here’s what he had to say:
Most of the Mt. Airy community knows you as the “cross-country skier,” can you share when you first heard about the Circuit?
I have known about individual trails from the moment I moved to Philly in 2000. I lived in Fairmount and my wife (then girlfriend) and I biked the Schuylkill River Trail a lot, mostly Kelly Drive and MLK. I got on the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia mailing list around 2011, and soon became a member. I found out about the amazing advocacy on regional trails from them.
I remember the first time I went out skiing on the Circuit was in 2001 when I lived right by Kelly Drive. I went out on the Kelly Drive section of the SRT and don’t recall seeing anyone. My favorite time to go out skiing is when there are no cars so I can get on a trail without having to worry about taking off my skis too much. I enjoy the solitude, but I would love to see more people out there on snowy days. It’s a wonderful way to spend a “snow day.”
Can you describe your experience of cross-country skiing on the Circuit Trails? What trails do you ski on?
Skiing on the trails is a rare treat and an adventure. Snow accumulations big enough for me to get out on the trails are rare. I don't believe in driving to a local trail to ski or bike. I have primarily skied along Forbidden Drive and nearby trails to my home in Mt. Airy. The one time I went out on Kelly Drive, when I lived downtown, there was absolutely no one out, virtually no roads had been plowed. I skied right across Kelly Drive in over a foot of snow.
Just last week during snow storm Jonas, I cross-country skied with a friend of mine on Forbidden Drive from my house. The trail was beautiful, calm and quiet with very few walkers and skiers. On a typical weekday or weekend on Forbidden Drive, you see hundreds of people running, cycling and walking with their dogs, which is wonderful, but it’s rare to have that solitude that you get in a snow storm.
Do you have any tips for future cross-country skiers on the trails?
- Layers are important: Just like biking, you get hot when you’re exercising and when you stop you can cool down quickly in winter weather.
- Bring a snack.
- Bring a map or be prepared to know where you are going.
- Pay attention to the wind: When it’s very windy I won’t go out in a wooded area due to the danger of falling branches.
- Bring a buddy.
- Carry a fully charged cell phone.
In addition to skiing, do you enjoy cycling on the Circuit Trails?
I suffered a head injury at work a year and a half ago which has kept me off my bike. I typically commuted to work via my bike three to four times a week and am hoping to get back into it slowly this spring.
I love to bike the SRT to the Perkiomen Trail to Green Lane and also SRT out to Valley Forge and back. If all goes well, I would like to be able to bike to Millersville University in June. I attend the Native Plant Conference there every year for work and have biked out once. I would love to go via Chester Valley-Enola Low Grade Trails, so I look forward to continuing improvements there.
Are you excited for any other new trail developments on the Circuit?
I was primarily commuting to work in Abington, so I would love to see the Cresheim Valley and Tookany Creek Trails realized. I am really excited for a connection between the SRT and Chester Valley Trail through King of Prussia. I sometimes bike to visit family in Chesterbrook via the SRT and Valley Forge Park, but would love to be able to cut over to the Chester Valley Trail, so I eagerly await that connection. I follow the development updates through the Circuit Trails newsletter.
The trail system here is like nothing else in the country. It’s amazing when you look at website how extensive trail network is.
By Jonathan DeHart
In my view, commuting by bike certainly has its advantages. It benefits your health and fitness in addition to helping clear your head before heading into the office, or after a long day at work. As a community, we should take advantage of the tremendous network of trails in our region.
Of course, commuting by bike doesn’t come without challenges. One of which is commuting in less than optimal conditions. Below is a list of tips and tricks I’ve developed over six consecutive years of commuting #onthecircuit:
Jonathan started walking and running on the trails in 1987 when he moved to the Jenkintown area, and from 2006-2012 biked about 19,000 commuting miles on the Circuit – 6,000 miles on the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT). To learn more about his journey, check out our previous Q&A with Jonathan here.
Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) announced an investment of $28 million for 176 projects across Pennsylvania! These projects include creating new recreational opportunities, conserving natural resources, revitalizing local communities and of particular interest to us, trail developments.
From this investment, the Circuit Trails received more than $2.46 million in grants for planning, designing and constructing trails! Several of these projects will also receive grant funding from DVRPC's Regional Trail Fund.
Below is the full list of Circuit Trails projects which received funding. You can find the full list of PA projects by clicking the following link: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/cs/groups/public/documents/document/dcnr_20031593.pdf
- In Morrisville Borough, $60,000 was granted for design of approximately 0.10 miles of the D&L Canal Trail crossing Bridge Street. The design will include drawings, specifications and other related documents.
Delaware County/Chester County
- $60,000 will be used to prepare a Comprehensive Recreation, Open Space and Greenways Plan for Chester City, Delaware County.
- Development of the Bridgeport Loop Trail in Bridgeport Borough was granted $331,000. The work will include construction of approximately 1.1 miles of trail from DeKalb Street between Fourth and Fifth streets, across the O'Neill Development Site, to DeKalb and West Front streets; ADA access, landscaping, project sign, signage and other related site improvements.
- $200,000 will be used to design approximately 3.5 miles of the Chester Valley Rail Trail in Upper Merion Township, Bridgeport, and Norristown boroughs, from South Gulph Road in Upper Merion Township to East Main Street in Norristown Borough.
- $160,000 will contribute to further developments of the Schuylkill River Trail in Lower Pottsgrove Township. The work will include construction of approximately 0.6 miles of trail from the Pottstown Borough line to the US 422 Bridge; ADA access, landscaping, project sign, signage and other related site improvements.
- Further development of the D&L Trail in North Catasauqua and Northampton boroughs will be granted $195,000. The work will include construction of approximately 1.3 miles of trail from Canal Park in Northampton Borough to the Lehigh County border in North Catasauqua Borough, pedestrian bridge, and culvert; ADA access, landscaping, project sign, signage and other related site improvements.
- Natural Lands Trust, Inc. will receive a $350,000 payment toward the acquisition of approximately 35 acres along the Tacony Creek in the City of Philadelphia for open space, passive recreation and access to the Tacony Creek.
- $400,000 in payment will go toward the acquisition of approximately 1.9 acres located along Frankford Creek in the City of Philadelphia for open space, passive recreation and the development of the Frankford Creek Greenway.
- $60,000 will be used to design approximately 1 mile of the Pennypack Trail in Philadelphia from the Interstate 95 Overpass to Rawn Street.
- Philadelphia City Treasurer Streets Department was awarded $400,000 to design approximately 2.1 miles of the Spring Garden Street Greenway from the Delaware River Trail to the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia.
- Philadelphia Department of Commerce was awarded $250,000 to further develop the Delaware River Trail in Philadelphia. The work will include construction of approximately 0.75 miles of trail from Washington Avenue to Pier 70 Boulevard; ADA access, landscaping, project sign, signage and other related site improvements.
Our friends at Bike Bucks County are making great strides in 2016 for bicycle advocacy across Bucks County. Bike Bucks County, an affiliate of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, started last March and is quickly gaining support from many advocates across the region. Their current mission is focused on making the Newtown Rail Trail a reality.
The Newtown Rail Trail is a proposed 8.4-mile trail that will connect users from the Newtown Borough all the way to the Pennypack Trail in Philadelphia, creating a vital link in the Circuit Trails. Bike Bucks County has been working with the Penn Tammany Greenway Coalition (PTGC), a volunteer group of residents in Bucks and Montgomery Counties whose mission is to transform SEPTA's Fox Chase - Newtown Line into a multi-use recreational trail.
Recently, the Bucks County Commissioners offered their support to design and engineer a plan for part of the Newtown Rail Trail. The cost for the design and engineering of the Upper Southampton part of the trail will be paid for through grants from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and the William Penn Foundation. However, without the support of citizen and officials in each of the five municipalities, the complete trail will not be possible.
Over the last few months the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors delayed voting on a resolution to the formation of the trail. The reasoning behind the delay is wanting to hear from neighboring municipalities and area property owners near where the trail will run.
So far, Middletown Township and the George School are positive toward the idea, nevertheless there are still many others that have not voiced their opinions yet. This is why Bike Bucks County needs your help!
There are several ways residents are encouraged to get involved. One, sign the online petition here to ask the Bucks County Commissioner to implement the County Bicycle Master Plan that includes the Newtown Rail Trail. Another option is to attend a panel discussion this Wednesday, January 27th at 7 pm at Northampton Twp. Public Library, 25 Upper Holland Road, Richboro, PA 18954. For more information about the next panel discussion click here. Get involved to help make this incredible trail project a reality!
As you ride along the Camden Greenway, you may have noticed new trees and other foliage lining the trail. This greening of the Greenway is thanks to our friends at the New Jersey Tree Foundation! The NJ Tree Foundation, a Circuit Coalition partner, is continuing this effort in 2016 to give the Circuit Trails in Camden a face-lift through its Trees for Trails project. With support from the William Penn Foundation, the Trees to Trails project began in 2015 with the goal of beautifying the trails, parks and on-street bike paths throughout Camden.
In addition to creating beautiful scenery, there are many benefits to planting new trees along the trails. Did you know that removing the concrete and adding trees allows stormwater to filter naturally, therefore decreasing stormwater runoff that otherwise would end up in Camden’s combined sewer system where it contributes to flooding? Or did you know that an increased tree canopy can improve the air quality in the city of Camden?
This past year, the NJ Tree Foundation and its volunteers planted maple, dogwood and redbud trees as well as other beautiful plants along the various Circuit Trails throughout Camden. Since its inception in 2002, the NJ Tree Foundation has planted more than 6,000 trees in the Camden area. As part of the Trees to Trails Project in the spring and fall of 2016, the NJ Tree Foundation will host a series of tree planting events open to the Camden community and general public. Many of the trails are part of the Camden Greenway, which provides access to open space for recreational, educational and leisure activities for residents. If you haven’t tested out trails in Camden yet, check out the Circuit Trails map of Camden County and plan your route!
Do you have a green thumb and are interested in volunteering, donating or learning more about the NJ Tree Foundation? Visit their website at www.njtreefoundation.org or contact Senior Program Director Jessica Franzini at .
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
It’s been a great year for trail developments in Philadelphia! The City of Philadelphia released the 2015 Philadelphia Trail Plan Update, which reflects the work in the past year of the Philadelphia Trail Committee and non-profit trail development partners.
As we move on to 2016, let’s take a look at last year’s notable accomplishments:
Additionally, several notable projects were completed on the Circuit, including the Manayunk Bridge Trail that links bicyclists and pedestrians between Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties and the extension of North Delaware Avenue from Lewis Street to Orthodox Street in Bridesburg.
Lastly, let’s talk trail funding. The City of Philadelphia and trail development partners secured more than $14.5 million in state, federal and local funding for construction, design and planning studies for trail projects in 2015.
Click to read the full report: http://www.phila.gov/CityPlanning/plans/PDF/PhilaTrailPlan_2015Update.pdf.
We are looking forward to our continued Circuit Trails partnerships in 2016!
By Anya Saretzky
The Ben Franklin Bridge is an iconic feature in the Greater Philadelphia region. Spanning the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey, it is a vital connector for both vehicular and non-motorized traffic, but not without its challenges.
Caitlin Teefey recently relocated from Pensacola, Florida to Philadelphia and gets around almost exclusively by bike. In Pensacola, she reports, that would have been impossible. Currently, she’s completing her degree in Healthcare Administration while simultaneously serving as her nephew’s full-time nanny. And because her nephew’s favorite activity is riding on the back of his aunt’s bike, they spend plenty of time exploring the Circuit Trails!
One of their first outings on the Circuit Trails was across the river to Camden’s Adventure Aquarium by way of the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Camden GreenWay. “We could have taken the easy way and just drove but we decided that biking over the Ben Franklin Bridge would be a better way to see the city. It’s great exercise and it’s doable. And I didn’t want to pay the toll!”
At the end of her voyage across the bridge, a surprise was in store for her: “I had no idea there would be those extremely steep and narrow stairs. Balancing the bike with a baby on the back was a challenge, but well worth it.” Luckily, she was with her brother who could help her safely carry her bike with the baby aboard down the stairs.
Without someone to lend a hand, Caitlin says she is unwilling to take her nephew over the bridge. “By myself, it would be unsafe. It’s just way too narrow. Taking the baby out [of the bike seat] would be too huge of a deal.” If there was a ramp, Caitlin says she would take the trip over the bridge every day. She also thinks that many more people would use the bridge if a ramp was constructed.
Caitlin was happy to hear that plans are in the works to build a ramp on the Camden side of the bridge. The project is currently close to the end of final design. The Delaware River Port Authority reports that the project will be put out to bid for construction in 2016. Construction will take about a year to complete.
Once the ramp is complete, we hope to see many more families making the trip over the Ben Franklin Bridge!
Olivia Glenn does it all. From balancing her career as the South Jersey Metro Regional Manager of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, to her role as a wife and mother of two children under 7-years old, to her newest role as the New Jersey Vice-Chair, Olivia has learned a thing or two about multi-tasking. We interviewed the new NJ Vice-Chair to get to know her better! Here’s what the Camden native had to say:
What’s your role at the New Jersey Conservation Foundation?
My geographic focus comprises the urbanized corridors of Gloucester, Camden, Burlington and Mercer Counties with a special emphasis on the City of Camden. My work includes land preservation, park planning and working with the Circuit Coalition.
How long have you worked on the Circuit Trails?
New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been involved with the Circuit Trails since its inception. I joined the effort in 2014.
What makes the Circuit so unique?
The Circuit Trail enhances our connectivity by making the numerous, regional trail projects part of a larger whole, whereby the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The Circuit Trails also pushes us beyond the conventional notions of “sense of place” that we associate with singular, discrete destinations. The Circuit propels us in a watershed context and helps reinforce that we are all connected.
What’s your favorite Circuit trail?
The Camden Greenway Phase One Loop on the Cooper River Trail… particularly in Farnham Park in Camden. I am a native of the City of Camden, and this park is also where I cultivated my love of nature. It is surreal to have the opportunity in my professional life to improve a place that is so special to me.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from working on the Circuit Coalition?
I have learned that there are many great examples of trails bringing communities together right here in the Delaware Valley! Trails have been a great nexus to bring together multiple stakeholders, including transportation experts, environmentalists, hospitals, schools and corporations with local communities. One great example on the PA side is the St. Luke's Hospital's tailonthetrail.org initiative on the D&L Trail.
On the NJ side, I think of the wonderful work done in Mercer County on the Lawrence Hopewell Trail where the community, corporations, county government, nonprofits and trail advocates came together to create a great shared space.
Why should NJ residents take time to appreciate the Circuit Trails? What impact does it have for their community?
Getting on the Circuit is good for us on both a personal and a community level. On a personal level, it can improve our health outcomes and make us happier, as studies have shown. On a community level, there are environmental, economic and social benefits. Investing in and giving back to green spaces always gives back! We've seen the benefits of trails on property values and how retail establishments located along trails draw business from trail users. Beyond recreational and economic benefits for a community, trails can be very utilitarian for transportation and commuting.
What is your favorite time of year to experience the Circuit?
October. I love when the leaves change color and it’s comfortable enough to enjoy being outdoors without breaking a sweat…or freezing!
What are your goals for the upcoming year?
Four major goals are: (1) working with resident counties and local partners to secure stable sources of funding, including but not limited to NJTIP, TAP, and TE; (2) promoting the Circuit Trails through social media with partners and trail users so that it is very recognizable to a greater segment of the general population; (3) touting the existing beautiful trails, proposed projects and engaged partners that are in New Jersey; and (4) mobilizing new stakeholders to become Circuit Trails partners.
Photo: Olivia Glenn standing on the newly opened 0.6-mile long Delaware Avenue Extension Trail
By Katie Harris
While it’s easy to stay bundled and cozy at home this December, there are great things to see all along the Circuit Trails this December!
1. Join clinical herbalist Kelly McCarthy on Sunday, December 13 for a hands-on Herbalists Workshop and Family Artists’ Workshop at Bartram’s Garden! According to the event website, workshop participants will “learn about the medicinal and historic use of bitters and explore the ways they might benefit digestion and overall health.” And the best part? You won’t leave empty handed! Participants will take home two bottles of bitters each. Find more information here: http://bartramsgarden.org/calendar/2015-12-13/
Nearest Circuit Trail: Schuylkill River Trail
2. Further north on the Circuit, the Sigal Museum in Easton, Pennsylvania has plenty going on! On Saturday, December 12, learn about the Battle of the Bulge from WWII Veteran, Morris Metz, who will be joined by two other veterans and will speak about his experience serving under General George Patton. Find more information here: http://sigalmuseum.org/schedule-of-events/
Nearest Circuit Trail: Delaware and Raritan Canal
3. Think Santa is just a land-faring gentleman? Think again! Meet Scuba Santa at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey. It’s not often that you find St. Nick and a hammerhead shark in one place. Don’t miss it! Find more information here: https://www.adventureaquarium.com/What-to-do-in-new-jersey/Daily-Shows-and-Feeds/Meet-Scuba-Santa
Nearest Circuit Trail: Camden GreenWay
4. Families in Mercer County have a great resource in the Tulpehaking Nature Center, right off of the Delaware and Raritan Canal. Various exhibits and events, including a birdhouse building workshop, naturalist-led hikes, and wildlife scavenger hunts, are being held over the month of December. Find more information here: http://mercercountyparks.org/calendar/
Nearest Circuit Trail: Delaware and Raritan Canal
5. Have you ever eaten breakfast, “chowline style,” on a battleship? We didn’t think so. On Saturday, December 12 you’ll get the chance to do just that on the famed Battleship New Jersey in Camden! Hot breakfast will be followed by a tour of the Battleship. Find more information here: http://www.battleshipnewjersey.org/news_events/?startrow=10
Nearest Circuit Trail: Camden GreenWay
6. Make the journey to Valley Forge and take part in the Annual March In of the Continental Army Commemoration on December 19. You’ll learn about General George Washington’s Continental Army’s arrival to Valley Forge in 1777 and the difficulties they faced during their encampment. After a candle-lit walk to the Muhlenberg Brigade huts, where you’ll learn about the encampment from a living continental camp, swing by the Visitor Center for refreshments and 18th century music. For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/vafo/planyourvisit/march_in.htm
Nearest Circuit Trail: Valley Forge Trail (Joseph Plumb Martin Trail)
7. Did you know that President Obama signed one of Camden artist William Butler’s paintings, “Invincible Promise”? When the president visited Camden in May of this year, he signed the painting to commemorate his visit. See the painting, and new pieces by Butler, during Camden’s Third Thursday Art Crawl on December 17. Butler’s work will be presented at Gallery Eleven One and other art events and showings will happen along the Art Crawl route. Find more information here: http://www.camdenwaterfront.com/calendar.php
Nearest Circuit Trail: Camden GreenWay
8. One would be hard-pressed to find more of a winter wonderland than Cooper River Park’s WinterFest. Lights, treats and ice skating round out this fantastic destination. Can’t make it to WinterFest during the month of December? No problem. The event runs through February 14, 2016. Find more information here: skatewinterfest.com
Nearest Circuit Trail: Cooper River Trail
Whatever and wherever you’re celebrating this year, spend a little time exploring the Circuit Trails!
Photo Courtesy of Camden County Board of Freeholders
Twice a year, the Circuit Coalition convenes for a two hour meeting to review progress and accomplishments from the six months. Here is a review of the Semi-Annual Circuit Trails Coalition Meeting held on November 19th:
Traditional, Shared, and Social Media Report
Brianna Taylor of Devine and Partners (D+P) reported that Circuit media efforts have reached over 130 million people through more than 141 online and broadcast placements. These media placements have an estimated value of over $400,000. The D+P team also reported that the Circuit Trails' hashtag: #onthecircuit has gained traction across social media platforms. Additionally, social media advertising and boosted Facebook posts have been very successful, generating 82% of all Facebook likes. See her presentation here.
Branding Campaign Update
As discussed by Katie Harris of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the new Circuit Trails logo was soft-launched at the end of October! The "Proud to Trail" campaign and new website will launch in the spring with the opening of trail season.
Chris Linn of DVRPC reported that 28 miles of Circuit Trails were completed between May 2012 and May 2014 and 12 miles were completed between May 2014 and November 2015. Forty-one miles are expected to be finished by late 2018. Nearly one hundred miles are in the pipeline which means they are either under design or studies have been completed.
Tom Sexton, Liz Sewell, and Anya Saretzky of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy reported on the trail user surveys program. Survey types include trail-side, intercept, focus group and phone. Results show that most trail users are unaware of the Circuit Trails and that trail use results in significant economic impact for local communities.
DVRPC Trail Use Count Update
DVRPC’s Shawn Megill Legendre reported that there are now 12 permanent counters on trails throughout the region. Trails that are better connected and are close to where people live and work have higher usage levels. All of the data is public and can be found here for permanent counters and here for short term counters.
Case Studies and Lessons Learned
Olivia Glenn of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Sue Brennan of Coopers Ferry Partnership, and Jack Sworaski of Camden County presented about the Cooper River Trail which runs through five municipalities. Their lessons learned can be summed up as “PEDAL” - Persistence & Partnerships, Easements & Education, Diversified funding streams and programming, Advocacy, Local engagement.
Paul Gordon from Bucks County Planning Commission and Michael Stokes from Montgomery County Planning Commission spoke about the cross-county partnership that is building the Pennypack Trail. Key takeaways include using county dollars, saving money by keeping labor in-house, and growing public support by building the trail one section at a time to let people see what the trail will look like.
‘Never say never’ was the theme that followed Wednesday’s dedication ceremony in Bridesburg. Community members and city leaders convened Wednesday to celebrate the opening of Phase 1A of the Delaware Avenue Extension project – a new 0.6 roadway and trail project built along the Delaware Riverfront Greenway in Northeast Philadelphia that has been in discussion for more than 20 years!
Phase 1A of the extension, connecting Port Richmond to Bridesburg, includes a 0.6-mile section of new roadway, a bridge over the Frankford Creek and an adjacent multi-use trail segment extending from Lewis Street to Orthodox Street.
Officials, including Mayor Nutter, Denise Goren, director of the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities, Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis, Commissioner of Streets Department David J. Perri and Former U.S. Congressman Robert Borski as well as Tom LaCroix, an active member of the Board of the Bridesburg Business Association gave remarks at the ceremony and reflected on the impact the project has already had on the Bridesburg community as well as Philadelphia. Mayor Nutter commented that the project is a “win, win, win,” providing a vital, direct route to and from I-95 for the industries, improving access to the waterfront and relieving the Bridesburg community of significant truck traffic on their neighborhood streets that has been degrading their quality of life.
And while the new road segment alleviates the truck traffic, the new multi-use trail opens opportunities for residents to broaden their own transportation choices and accommodates pedestrian crossings. As the project evolves, the trail will be used for commuters to bypass traffic congestion and ride right along the river to get to work.
Goren described the project as the first new road to open in the city in 30 years. When speaking about the new trail Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis commented on how far we’ve come, adding that trails have become an integral part of Philadelphia. The addition of a multi-use trail was an integral element, especially when considering residents’ quality of life. Residents (for decades) have requested access to the river for recreational use. Now, residents can take advantage of this unseasonably warm weather and get out on the trail!
And local residents have already seen the positive impact! A resident on Orthodox Street commented that traffic volume has decreased on his street since the road was opened in late November. The resident also observed significant more yellow school busses on Delaware Avenue. The bus operation is at the end of Orthodox Street and, prior to the opening, bus drivers had no choice but to use Orthodox and travel through the neighborhood – creating further traffic congestion! As the project evolves, a trail will be built at Magee Street, located at the back of a Charter School currently in development, allowing students from neighboring communities to use the trail to get to school.
The federally funded $14.5 million project, which broke ground last spring is yet another reminder of the power of collaboration, perseverance and vision. “This multi-layered project shows just how much progress can happen when entities, public and private, across the city collaborate,” Mayor Nutter said. The inclusion of the trail in the Delaware Avenue Extension shows that solutions for transportation challenges in Philadelphia extend beyond motorized travel. In fact, infrastructure that supports walking and biking are widely recognized as indispensable elements of projects like these.
Officials thanked the Delaware River City Corporation, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the Streets Department, Urban Engineers, Buckley Company and others for their collaboration on the project.
Congressman Borski praised the Mayor for his work expanding roads and trails commenting:
“This is a great day for Philadelphia and particularly for Bridesburg and Port Richmond. A big part of Philadelphia being a world class city are world class neighborhoods. To have this beautiful trail – the connector to the rest of Delaware Avenue – is nothing short of a miracle.”
And this project is just the beginning for what’s to come in Bridesburg. Phase 1B, set to begin in 2017 and be completed in 2018, will continue the extension of Delaware Avenue north from Orthodox to Buckius Street – creating a mile of new trail and roadway in total. By 2020, officials hope to see Delaware Avenue extended as far as the Frankford Boat Launch, where it is planned to link with I-95. When the project is complete, there will be 11 miles of new trail stretching from Allegheny to Grant Avenue!
Residents are looking forward to using the piece just built that will connect Bridesburg to Port Richmond. As the trail gets pushed north into the Frankford Boat Launch, it will connect Bridesburg and Port Richmond to a recreational park. The Wissinoming, Port Richmond and Bridesburg neighborhoods will all have access to trail and the river.
Also in development is a new riverfront park in Bridesburg, a 10-acre park that will be connected to the Delaware Avenue Extension. Final park designs will be presented at a public community meeting next Wednesday, Dec. 16 from 6:30 to 8:30pm.
Image 1: The new 0.6 mile-long trail and roadway; Image 2: Aerial view of Phase 1A of the Delaware Avenue Extension Project; Image 3: Cyclists enjoying the new trail on the Delaware Avenue Extension