REGION’S TRAIL NETWORK, THE CIRCUIT, GETS MAJOR BOOST FOR TRAIL COMPLETION,
AWARENESS-BUILDING FROM WILLIAM PENN FOUNDATION
New Urban Trails to Increase Access to Greater Philadelphia’s Waterways
PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 15, 2014) – The region’s trail network, known as the Circuit, has received a significant boost toward further trail completion, awareness-building and bettering public access to Philadelphia’s waterways with new funding from the William Penn Foundation. The grants, totaling $8.6 million, will leverage the work of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), which are members of the Circuit Coalition. When complete, the Circuit will include 750 miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails connecting people to jobs, communities, waterways and parks in the Greater Philadelphia region. To date, more than 300 miles of the network have been built.
“The Circuit’s hundreds of miles of trails create vital opportunities to dramatically increase public access to Greater Philadelphia’s waterways and will serve as key elements for engaging and connecting urban communities to these natural resources,” said Andrew Johnson, director of the Watershed Protection Program for the Foundation. Johnson added that most of the unbuilt trail miles in urban corridors follow abandoned rail lines and cross contaminated industrial lands, including trails on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Camden, Chester and Trenton and on the Schuylkill River. These trails are typically expensive and complicated to complete but are essential as urban hubs for the network. “These trails increase scarce public access to our rivers, particularly in underserved neighborhoods that have been cut off from waterways for generations, and they also literally connect people to visible examples of stream restoration projects for ongoing environmental protection efforts,” he said.
DVRPC will receive $7 million over three years from the Foundation to support final design and engineering work for trail projects, ensuring that selected trails are shovel-ready for construction. The DVRPC grant will also include some construction capital and will leverage millions of dollars of available public infrastructure funding for trail completion. RTC’s $1.6 million grant, also over three years, is designed to implement a communications program to build awareness of this significant regional amenity. The campaign will emphasize how and where people can connect to the Circuit for recreation, commuting and fitness use and how they can support the completion of the overall system through advocacy and giving.
“We are so grateful to the William Penn Foundation for sharing in and supporting our vision of how a fully connected Circuit will bring environmental, economic, health, community and quality of life benefits to residents and visitors throughout greater Philadelphia,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, chairperson of the Circuit Coalition, a collaboration of nearly 70 non-profit organizations, foundations and public agencies. “This funding underscores the Foundation’s long-term commitment to powering public-private partnerships for the good of the region. For a significant number of people, the Circuit is their commuting route, town square, gym and playground. Catalyzing further progress toward completing the Circuit in new communities expands the Circuit’s benefits to many more people who currently lack access to green space and riverfronts. We are also fortunate that our Coalition members engage at such a significant advocacy level – identifying opportunities to move the effort forward and providing constituents with opportunities to make their priorities known to decision makers,” Stuart said.
“We have made tremendous progress toward completion of the Circuit, and this $7 million grant from the William Penn Foundation will advance development of key segments of this emerging regional trail network with a focus on urban communities,” said Barry Seymour, DVRPC Executive Director. “Specifically, new funding will provide support to trails at key planning, engineering, and construction stages, leveraging and maximizing regional investment in these facilities. We will identify the high-priority trail projects and help make them happen.”
According to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy President Keith Laughlin, when completed the Circuit will be the most comprehensive regional trail network in the country. “As we have seen in cities like Atlanta, Indianapolis and Seattle, active transportation networks like this are about much more than just a nice place to walk or ride; they are about how cities position themselves as great places to live, work and do business,” Laughlin said. “The Circuit would be without parallel. This is what the transportation and recreation systems of the future will look like, and the Circuit will be the Greater Philadelphia region’s competitive advantage.”
About the Circuit
The Circuit is a multi-use trail network that connects 300 miles of trails throughout the Greater Philadelphia area in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with plans to add 450 additional miles to the system. When fully complete, the Circuit will help connect people to jobs, recreational opportunities, public transportation and other neighborhoods, and will serve as a gateway to open green space. Support of the Circuit is being led by the Circuit Coalition, a group of nonprofit organizations, foundations and agencies working together to raise the profile of this regional trail network, and educate people about the benefits an increased trail network will bring to the region. For more information please visit www.connectthecircuit.org.
About Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) is dedicated to uniting the region's elected officials, planning professionals and the public with the common vision of making a great region even greater. Shaping the way we live, work and play, DVRPC builds consensus on improving transportation, promoting smart growth, protecting the environment, and enhancing the economy. We serve a diverse region of nine counties: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania; and Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer in New Jersey. DVRPC is the official metropolitan planning organization for the Greater Philadelphia Region - leading the way to a better future. For more information, visit www.dvrpc.org.
About Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), a nonprofit organization with more than 160,000 members and supporters, represents a national community of more than 850,000 trail users. Founded in 1986, RTC is America’s largest trails organization dedicated to connecting people and communities by creating a nationwide network of public trails, many from former rail lines. For more information, visit railstotrails.org.
About William Penn Foundation
The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. In partnership with others, the Foundation works to advance opportunity, ensure sustainability, and enable effective solutions. Since inception, the Foundation has made nearly 10,000 grants totaling over $1.6 billion. The Foundation’s assets exceed $2.3 billion as of Nov. 30, 2014.
From the PlanPhilly Website. Published on November 19th. Story by Kellie Patrick Gates.
The PCPC doesn't mind cyclists using what will essentially be the sidewalk on the north side of Race Street from 2nd to the river. But commissioners are worried about a caution-light only crossing of the I-95 northbound on-ramp.
City planning commissioners are fine with the concept of cyclists and pedestrians sharing a to-be-built, 10-foot side path along the north side of Race Street between 2nd Street and Delaware Avenue.
What worries them is how, exactly, those pedestrians and cyclists will safely cross the north-bound on-ramp of I-95.
The proposed path – essentially a sidewalk - would be the north-side counterpoint to its already existing sister on the south side of Race Street. This section of the street, from 2nd Street to the river, is called the Race Street Connector, as its job is to better connect Old City to the waterfront at the Race Street Pier. It and other in-the-works connectors on key east-west streets are an important component of the city's plan to better tie waterfront neighborhoods to the river, and the Race Street and other connectors are also part of the city's trail network.
Read the full article on the PlanPhilly site.
A $10 million, 2,000-foot-long concrete "boardwalk" being built out into the Schuylkill will extend the Schuylkill River Trail from Locust Street to the South Street Bridge in 2014.
By 2015, a $3 million ramp for bikers and walkers is expected to be under construction on the Camden end of the Ben Franklin Bridge...
If you want to know more about the history behind our campaign to secure new trail funding for The Circuit, Christine Fisher at PlanPhilly covers it this week:
In November 2010, the William Penn Foundation awarded DVRPC $10 million to create a Regional Trails Program, which would distribute the funding to trail development projects over a three-year span. Since then that $10 million has helped move 40 miles of trails forward as well as leverage millions of additional dollars.
In many ways the $10 million grant accomplished what the William Penn Foundation hoped it would, but now that the money has been divided among projects, the foundation has no plans to replace it.
Not wanting to lose momentum, regional trail advocates have begun campaigning. The movement is being led by The Circuit Coalition, a group advocating on behalf of The Circuit, a work-in-progress 750-mile regional trail network.
“The Circuit Coalition Campaign is essentially making a case to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission that the funding was a huge success and that it should be replenished with another $10 million for a three-year period,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, policy director at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and a Circuit Coalition leader.
Flying Kite covered the recent trail and bike lane openings in the Camden GreenWay. Quotes from the article:
A few weeks ago, leaders from all levels of New Jersey government held a ribbon cutting ceremony in Camden to celebrate the completion of three TIGER-funded trail projects. The paved segments are crucial to completing the long-envisioned regional system of interconnected greenways.
"They're essential projects," says Ian Leonard with Camden County's Department of Public Works. "They allow for the connection of 128 miles of already-completed trails."
That system, dubbed The Circuit, will include 750 miles of trails; more than 250 miles have already been built throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Planners also hope that the three Camden County projects will boost economic development opportunities and quality of life for local residents.They include new bike lanes, lighting, signage, and extensive street and sidewalk improvements throughout downtown Camden. Located along Martin Luther King Boulevard, Pearl Street and Pine Street in Camden, the trails connect to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, making it easier for Philadelphians to bike or walk into Camden, and then on to Collingswood or Cherry Hill.
You can read the full article here.
Philly Love Notes is a website devoted to just that - love notes to a place or aspect of Philadelphia, written by residents new and old. This week's Love Note was written by Poly Math (a pen name) to the Schuylkill River Trail, and features some lovely photographs of the views from Schuylkill Banks.
(July 5) Pedestrians and bicyclists in Charleston are to be forgiven if they develop a slight case of trail envy — of Philadelphia.
Like Charleston, it has met obstacles in its efforts to become bike friendly. Charleston has the Ashley River. Philadelphia has to deal with big-city traffic, trains and congestion.
But despite all that, the Philadelphia area is on the way to completing a 130-mile Schuylkill River Trail.
The current stretch?
A 2,000-foot-long, 15-foot-wide boardwalk with four lookout areas on the Schuylkill River.
Lucky for Philadelphia, its bike trail doesn’t have to cross a navigable river like the Ashley. Rather it bypasses a spot where the trail now has to dead-end.
It will be slightly above the tidal waters and is expected to be covered by water once or twice a year when there is severe weather.
And it seems Philadelphians have an affinity for trees similar to Charlestonians’.
The boardwalk is being built 50 feet from shore so as not to disturb a canopy of trees on the riverbank.
Eventually, bikers here expect to be able to ride safely from Folly Beach, through Charleston and Mount Pleasant, to the Isle of Palms.
When it’s complete, the Schuylkill trail, which is used for recreation and commuting, will go from Philadelphia through four counties.
Philadelphia has the Philly cheesesteak, but Charleston has shrimp and hominy.
The Cradle of Liberty has Benjamin Franklin as a native son. Charleston has its own colonial and Revolutionary War history.
But the Schuylkill River Trail boardwalk?
Please understand if Charleston is a little envious.
JULY 1, 2013 - Christine Fisher, writing for PlanPhilly/Philly.com, provides an update on the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk. The Boardwalk will connect the current terminus of the Schuylkill River Trail at Locust St with the South Street Bridge. Current estimated completion is fall 2014.
The 58th Street Greenway had its official ribbon cutting on Saturday, June 8th. The Philadelphia Inquirer and PlanPhilly were on hand to cover the event, which was commemorated by Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler, Senator Anthony Williams, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, and Councilman Jannie Blackwell.
PlanPhilly's Christine Fisher explained the trail's significance:
After more than three years of planning, more than a year of construction and ongoing community involvement, the 58th Street Greenway opened Saturday. The 1.5 mile, $3.5 million trail provides a critical link between the Cobbs Creek Trail, Bartram's Garden and the trails beyond. As community and project leaders stressed though, the trail is more than a connection. It is a vote of confidence in the South West Philadelphia, Kingsessing neighborhood.
The Inquirer's coverage is here. You can see more photos of the ribbon cutting at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia's Facebook page.
By Christine Fisher, Plan Philly
Just as Philadelphia is looking to expand its own trail network, The Circuit, a coalition of regional leaders, is working to strengthen and expand the network of trails throughout the Greater Philadelphia region.
In a sum of the parts is greater than the whole scenario, Philadelphia’s trails stand to benefit from being part of The Circuit, a larger, interconnected, regional trail network, said Chris Linn, senior environmental planner at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. As in Philadelphia, the region’s trails provide outdoor green space, connect neighborhoods and continue to be the number one recreation facility desired by city residents.
Linn and other Circuit leaders hope to grow the network by 450 miles. This is in addition to the 250 miles already completed and the 50 miles currently under construction. The estimated cost of those 450 miles - $250 million or $12.5 million over 20 years – drew a quiet but audible gasp from Pedestrian and Bicycle Summit attendees.
When complete the network will boast 750-miles of connected trails. The Circuit will tie into other, even larger networks like the East Coast Greenway, a continuous greenway from Maine to Florida that is currently being development.
As Philadelphia continues to expand its on and off road bicycle and recreation facilities, Linn said he hopes groups building just a mile or two of trail or bike infrastructure will start to realize that they are part of a larger effort.
The Rails to Trails Conservancy profiled Philadelphia and Pittsburgh's growing urban trail systems, and the Gray's Ferry Crescent received some special attention.
You can read the full article here: www.railstotrails.org/news/features/taleoftwocities.html
Friday, April 5, 2013 - Nice coverage from NCB10 Philadelphia about The Circuit in the context of possible Pennsylvania legislation which would establish a dedicated state fund for bicycling and walking projects.
Last Thursday the new section of the Schuylkill River Trail, located along Nixon Street in Shawmont, opened with notable speakers and an enthusiasic crowd. Mayor Michael Nutter, Congressman Chaka Fattah, State Representative Pam DeLissio, Councilman Curtis Jones Jr, and Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis were all on hand for the ceremonial ribbon cutting. Congressman Fattah arrived at the event on bicycle (see photo above).
The event received press attention from both WHYY Newsworks and the Roxborough Review.
Feburary 13, 2013 - The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the William Penn Foundation has suspended grants to city-related agencies. This affects the funding for Bartram's Mile.
Link to the article below:
The Circuit in the news recently:
William Penn Foundation plans grants for arts, environment
December 20, 2012. The William Penn Foundation will announce more than $3.2 million in grants Wednesday to fund a modern arts home on the Delaware waterfront, expand a successful early literacy program, and encourage appreciation of the environment - by getting out in it.
The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe will get $1.5 million; the Children's Literacy Initiative will get $1 million; and four environmental stewardship groups will share $715,000.
The grants signal implementation of the foundation's new 10-year strategic vision, which focuses on closing the achievement gap for low-income children, protecting the region's water quality, and making its creative community more vibrant.
The plan was developed during the tenure of president Jeremy Nowak, who abruptly left his position in November. Officials cited "differences in approach regarding implementation."
Helen Davis Picher, the foundation's director of evaluation and planning, was named interim president.
The following is an excerpt from the article.
The environmental grants have twin components of stewardship and physical activity outdoors.They center on the region's expanding trail network. Dubbed "the circuit," it is a planned 750 miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails. So far, 250 miles are complete; 50 more are in progress. (See connectthecircuit.org.)
Outward Bound Philadelphia will get $165,000 to integrate water-quality education into its youth programs, chiefly multiday backpacking expeditions on the trails.
"Once you're out experiencing it firsthand, you recognize its value," executive director Katie Newsom Pastuszek said.
The Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation, which owns the land encompassing Friends Hospital, will get $82,500 to develop educational programs along a new portion of the Tacony Creek Trail, part of which runs through the hospital's 100-acre campus. Scattergood president Joseph Pyle said the money would fund a staffer to help the community "use the green space to improve health."
The YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties will get $110,000 to expand CYCLE - a youth biking program developed with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Youths will learn about watershed issues in classrooms, and then they and their families will mount bicycles, riding to wetlands along the Delaware.
"Let's go wade in the water; let's see what it looks like in the real world," said Curtis Myers, the YMCA's Camden County expansion executive.
The foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, has assets of nearly $2 billion. It distributes $80 million in grants annually.
One important piece of The Circuit opened to the public in the past few days, and another had its official groundbreaking.
On Saturday, the Connector Bridge crossing the tracks at Schuylkill River Park officially opened. On time and under budget, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has previously written extensively about the project.
On Monday, a new trail on Philadelphia's other river broke ground in Port Richmond. The aptly-named Port Richmond Trail will help connect people to the Delaware River and add more mileage onto the 250+ miles of bike/ped trail already built in The Circuit. U.S. Rep Allyson Schwartz, who helped secure the federal TIGER grant funding the project, attended the ceremony.