Critical Connection for Circuit Trails Nearing Completion

Patrick Starr, Executive VP

70 miles of seamlessly connected Circuit Trails is huge! A critical connection for the Circuit Trails is now under construction in Montgomery County that will connect the Chester Valley Trail (CVT) and the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) in Norristown. From there, access to the Perkiomen Trail and Cross County Trail are just a few miles away.

As the PA Vice Chair of the Circuit Trails Coalition, I participated in the ground-breaking ceremony hosted by the Montgomery County Commissioners for the “extension” of the Chester Valley Trail from King of Prussia to Bridgeport and Norristown. While the Chester Valley Trail is nearly synonymous with Circuit Trails in Chester County, most could be forgiven for not realizing that this connection to Bridgeport and Norristown is the responsibility of Montgomery County and will be maintained by the Montgomery County Parks Department.

This bridge was constructed over the Schuylkill Expressway more than a decade ago when the Expressway was reconstructed. It’s been waiting for trail to connect to it from the northeast all that time.

According to Board of Commissioner Chair, Val Arkoosh, “The significance of completing this nearly 4-mile gap in the Chester Valley Trail cannot be overstated. It will literally transform the ability to recreate and commute between Chester County and points throughout Montgomery County.”

In Circuit Trails lexicon, both these trails are trunklines.  The SRT has been decades in the works advanced by the City of Philadelphia, Montgomery County, and Chester County. The CVT has been a priority of Chester County since the early 2000’s and eventually will thread through the heart of the county and ultimately connect all the way through Lancaster County to the Susquehanna.

PEC just last year orchestrated the recognition of the corridor as a trail of regional significance by Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Dunn. It is entirely likely that within 10 years, it will be possible to bike off road safely from Harrisburg all the way to Norristown!

Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence, Vice Chair of the Montco Board of Commissioners, gave remarks.

All the speakers enthusiastically remarked on the importance of this connection. The event was held in King of Prussia, where there are upwards of 50,000 jobs. The trail will link to other significant job centers along the “Great Valley” in Chester County, including Chesterbrook and the Great Valley Corporate Center. Norristown on the other hand is an under-served under-privileged community with 35,000 residents. The new section of trail will provide a safe 20-30 minute commuting corridor for this community, not to mention the recreational and health benefits of the trail.

I really enjoyed the remarks by Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence, Vice Chair of the Montco Board of Commissioners, as well as our follow-up conversation. He explained how, when elected, he knew nothing of the Circuit, but since that time had become the only Commissioner to complete the annual Montco Trails Challenge. In the process he’d seen many parts of the County he didn’t know, improved his health, and realized how much county residents used and cherished the County’s trail network.

His personal conversion to a trail advocate was truly inspiring!

A good crowd was in attendance.

Lawrence hails from Pottstown, an urban center of 25,000 residents, and said, “We celebrate the popularity of our trails with the understanding that there is a disparity when it comes to the diversity of people who use them, their awareness of them, and their ability to access them, most notably in our more urbanized portions of the county such as Pottstown and Norristown.”

All told it was a great event with lots to celebrate! New connections! Cooler Fall temperatures! And free and easy access to outdoor recreation and more convenient access to jobs from some of the area’s most disadvantaged communities.