Monday, October 23, 2017

Southern Montgomery County Trail Efforts Gearing Up

These are exciting times for trail building in Montgomery County.

For a few years now the PennyPack Rail Trail, part of the Circuit Trail network, has provided local MontCo residents a safe and beautiful recreational opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature. Running from Rockledge Borough to Byberry Road (near Mason's Mill Park) the 5.4 mile trail is in the process of being extended through the rest of MontCo north into Bucks County. As you know, this Rail Trail is home to SoMont Cycling Youth MTB team. It provides a safe haven for our athletes to train, even at dusk, now that we experience less and less light with each passing day.

In other parts of the southern Montgomery County area we are seeing organizations and citizens continuing to pursue Circuit Trail expansion.

In Cheltenham Township, there are numerous trail related efforts, with multiple organizations working together to continue this expansion. At the southern end of Cheltenham Township, along the Tookany Creek, ideas and plans are coming together in support of connecting Tacony Creek trails with Tookany Creek trails. Additionally, Cheltenham's long standing sewer replacement project, which currently has much of the Tookany Creek trail off-limits, is making progress. As the core sewer replacement project comes to a close, residents are beginning to inquire about the future of the Tookany Creek Trail. While the plan is to return the trail back to what it was, it wouldn't take much more to make it better and to make it a certified "Circuit Trail" trail.

Recently, a number of groups interested in trail building did a quick tour of the conditions in and around the Tacony and Tookany Creeks. Members of the Tookany-Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (Julie Slavet), Pennsylvania Environmental Council (Patrick Starr), Montgomery County Planning Commission (Henry Stroud) and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (Leonard Boranek) toured Tookany Creek, High School Park and a number of other areas along the future, proposed trail. Patrick Starr of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council had this, and more, to say about the future of the Circuit Trail in Cheltenham Township...
"With effective partners like Cheltenham Township, which recently adopted a municipal resolution endorsing 500 miles of Circuit Trails by 2025, the capable MCPC staff, and the indefatigable TTF Watershed Partnership, well, I hate to make predictions, but I think some of it could be built by 2025!"
At the other end of the township, we are seeing some developments with extending the Cresheim Trail up to Cheltenham Township. If you are not familiar with the Creshiem Trail, it connects into Fairmount Park along the Wissahickon Creek and Forbidden Drive, and provides a network of trails from the "Wiss" currently up to Germantown Avenue to just about the front door of the Trolley Car Diner. If you have not experienced the Cresheim Trails starting at Germantown Ave you will not be disappointed when you do finally visit! The plan is to extend the trail over Germantown Ave across an old train bridge and up to Cheltenham Avenue along a power line. From there Cheltenham will pick up the trail for a brief time through the Laverock neighborhood. The trail will then continue to the north up to the Green Ribbon Trail. There will also be an option to go south back toward Glenside eventually back toward the Tookany Creek trail mentioned above, connecting the rock gym to the little league.

In a recent development, Philadelphia City Council member Cindy Bass recently came on board with the existing plan to extend the Creshiem Trail up to Cheltenham Avenue.

To top all of this off, Cheltenham Township's Environmental Advisory Council recently named a sub-committee to build community support for Mobility and Healthy Living goals of the township's sustainability plan. The mission of the Mobility & Healthy Living sub-group is to champion residents' support for programs and activities that promote:
  • safe, secure, pedestrian access to local town centers, transportation hubs and parks (walkability)
  • active, outdoor-oriented lifestyles (running, walking, outdoor sports)
  • natural-area, recreational activities & opportunities (hiking, biking, fishing, access to parks, park features)
  • healthy living programs with local, organic, sustainability-based, environmentally-friendly focus

The sub-committee is meeting this week at Creekside Coop for their first informal meeting.