K&T Rail Trail Evolves from Brownfield to Multi-Purpose Trail

When it comes to PEC’s role in developing projects, it can sometimes be a difficult one to describe, but an extremely gratifying role, nonetheless.

Patrick Starr photo new 2
PEC Executive Vice President Patrick Starr

So as I watched Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and former Congressman Robert Borski break ground on the Kensington & Tacony (K&T) rail trail on the Delaware Riverfront last month, I was quite mindful of how PEC “helped.”

I spoke at the event as the Pennsylvania Co-Chair of the Circuit Trails Coalition. The K&T is a small part of the larger East Coast Greenway which is a Circuit Trails trunk line. I think of it as our I-95 connector from Trenton to Wilmington through densely populated communities on the Delaware River.

I recalled walking the site — Lardner’s Point Park — ten years ago. At that time it was a derelict brownfield that PEC had identified as a terrific site for Delaware River public access, a proposed “pearl” on the “string” of the K&T multi-purpose trail.

Today, it’s built.

A matter of mere yards from our event a dozen people fished off a pier we had rehabbed for just that purpose. Native flowers and trees thrived all around me, and 900 feet of the K&T trail had been constructed five years ago in conjunction with the park, all of which was designed under a PEC contract.

And soon, that stranded trail segment will extend in both directions, becoming a functional trail that one day will lead south to Key West or north to Canada!

PEC assisted in the trail’s development every step of the way. We developed the plan that laid out the vision expressed by hundreds of participants and from dozens of meetings drawn from Northeast Philadelphia’s riverfront neighborhoods. We negotiated the agreement of sale of the K&T by Conrail to the City of Philadelphia, and we did our due diligence that included a Phase I and Phase II environmental assessment.

I testified before City Council to urge that Philadelphia acquire the K&T with funds PEC had raised, and I urged the Fairmount Park Commission to accept responsibility for both the Lardner’s Point brownfield and the derelict K&T right of way. They did so, buying fully into the vision of a “pearl necklace” of Delaware riverfront parks connected by a trail to complement the Schuylkill River Park.

PEC sold the vision to funding partners such as the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the City of Philadelphia, and the William Penn Foundation who subsequently funded the Delaware River City Corporation (of which I am an officer and founding board member), to turn the plan into reality. The DRCC has seen the vision of the plan through and capably and responsibly shepherded one project after another to completion.

As exciting as the groundbreaking was, I can hardly wait to ride my bike with my friend Robert Borski, a visionary and collaborator on the completed trail. Our bike ride will likely take place next spring, 22 years after I first heard about the abandoned railroad right on the Delaware River.