Schuylkill River Towns

A winter festival in Manayunk brings the community down to the Schuylkill River Canal.

PEC undertook a community-led initiative to improve the environment and economy of Manayunk, Conshohocken, Norristown, and Phoenixville and help these River Towns reclaim the Schuylkill river as an asset.

The Schuylkill River Town Program is a two year initiative managed by PEC and funded through the William Penn Foundation to build stewardship of the Schuylkill River and adjacent trails through education and engagement. The project focuses on the 26 miles of trail and river that includes the communities of Manayunk, Conshohocken, Norristown, and Phoenixville.

We believe that trails and rivers are exceptional assets to the towns they serve. The goal of building stewardship for these assets is to draw trail users into the towns, encourage people from town to experience the river, and to create economic and environmental improvements through these connections.   

Over 80,000 people use the Schuylkill River Trail each year, but not enough users see the towns they pass through as destinations. Our citizen Action Teams in Manayunk, Conshohocken, Norristown, and Phoenixville are working hard on projects they identified as priorities for improving the trail in their towns. These projects range from removing invasive plant species to engaging local artists to create wayfinding systems. Together with PEC and local partners, the Action Teams of the Schuylkill River Towns Program work hard to improve the economic and environmental wellbeing of their towns.

Over 80,000 people use the Schuylkill River Trail each year.

Volunteer Action Teams decide how to better connect their community to the river.

July 27, 2016

Summer Events Along the Schuylkill Connect Communities to the River

Through a series of Schuylkill River Town Program (SRTP) bike rides, paddle trips, and more, the summer along the river and its trail is in full swing.

Hosted by local business owner Mark Vaughn of Riverbend Cycles, Schuylkill River Towns kicked off the season with an educational series for cyclists. The program taught current and potential cyclists about bike maintenance, road safety, commuting by bike, and cycling with children. Through this program, SRTP is helping non-traditional cyclists feel empowered to use the trail in their daily life.

The series ended just in time for many local trail users to celebrate Opening Day of the Circuit Trails in May with the Passport to the Schuylkill River Towns event. Participants in Phoenixville, Norristown, and Conshohocken could pick up a guide to eateries, breweries, and trail-friendly shops in each town that offered free Circuit Trails gear. Maps on the guides showed how the Schuylkill River Trail connects the river towns and leads to these establishments.

For National Trail Month in June, PEC hosted a 33-mile bike ride that led participants to breweries in Phoenixville, Norristown, and Conshohocken. In addition to highlighting connections between the towns and promoting the connection between public transit and the trail, the ride showcased the growing brewing industry in these industrial towns.

Throughout June and July, SRTP offered paddle trips on the Schuylkill that highlighted access points in local communities and the incredible beauty of this natural resource. Led by the outfitters at Take It Outdoors Adventures, SRTP participants have paddled out of Norristown, Bridgeport, and Port Providence. The kayaking events sold out quickly and introduced beginners and experienced paddlers alike to this fun recreational activity that many were unaware was possible on the Schuylkill River.

Another highlight of this summer’s kayak trips was a day-long event for kids ages 10-16, introducing them to kayaking, teaching them about their local environment, and inspiring them to become stewards of nature in their backyards. This youth trip was made possible with the support of the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds & Rivers (POWR).

This summer’s events also included walking tours along the Schuylkill River Trail. An ethnobotany tour taught participants to identify edible and medicinal plants. A trail cleanup in Phoenixville had Action Team members, high school students, and a local baseball team working together to clean two miles of the SRT and the French Creek. The group collected over 40 bags of trash and learned about the history of the Schuylkill Canal in Phoenixville.

But the summer of events is not over just yet. SRTP will be hosting more kayak trips in August and September, including a full moon paddle on the river as well as ConshyCache, a geocaching event on the trail. Additionally, SRTP is excited to present Perspectives of Nature, a pop-up art gallery that will take place in Norristown on Aug. 6. Artists from the river towns submitted work inspired by the Schuylkill River, and it will be on display in Norristown’s Center for Culture, Art, Training, and Education. This program is presented in partnership with Montgomery County Community College and the Philadelphia Art Alliance. The goal is to open residents’ eyes to the natural beauty in their communities.

May 27, 2016

Schuylkill River Town Program Provides a Link Between Communities and the River

After an eventful spring season, the Schuylkill River Town Program is gearing up for another summer of getting people on to both the river and trail!

The season kicked off on April 16 when the Schuylkill River Towns celebrated Opening Day for trails with a scavenger hunt event that linked trail users with local businesses. Participants were given River Town “passports” that showed them how to use the trail to reach local businesses in Phoenixville, Norristown, and Conshohocken where they would receive The Circuit Trails swag.

The Action Teams in each town worked together to organize the event and it was exciting to have multiple towns coordinating one event, highlighting how rivers are corridors that connect us to each other.

In May, Schuylkill River Towns hosted a walking tour of Lock 60 in partnership with the Schuylkill Canal Association. Participants learned about the history, wildlife, and legacy of this unique part of the river. Schuylkill River Towns also worked with a local botanist to host a walking tour that highlighted edible plants growing naturally along the trail as well as a freshwater fishing class to attract new and experienced anglers to the Schuylkill.

Schuylkill River Trail photo 3From June to September, the program is organizing a series of kayak tours in Bridgeport, Norristown, and Mont Clare. Participants will discover the history and natural beauty of the River Towns from the vantage point of the river itself. Some of the tours in the series have additional themes, including youth and moonlight paddles. Funding from the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation, the Phoenixville Police Athletic League, the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers (POWR), and the Darden Foundation are supporting the kayak series.

Schuylkill River Towns is also organizing events on the trail. During National Trail Month in June, a bike trip from Conshohocken to Phoenixville and back will highlight the breweries and distilleries that call the River Towns home and depend on the waters of the Schuylkill. The program is also offering tours to explore the natural heritage in the towns.

With funding from the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the Schuylkill River Towns is also working with Montgomery County Community College to create a Pop-up Art Gallery in Norristown that will draw attention to the proximity of the trail to downtown Norristown.

PEC believes that the programing created by the Schuylkill River Towns Program builds a connection between residents and their river that has been absent for decades. By enabling communities to access their river and recreate on it, we create lifelong stewards of our natural resources.

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