The William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia has announced grants totaling $8.6 million over three years to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in support of their efforts to complete a regional trail network.
DVRPC was awarded $7 million to complete the final design and engineering work for trail projects and ensure that selected trails are shovel-ready for construction. The grant also includes some construction capital and will leverage millions of dollars of public infrastructure funding. RTC will receive $1.6 million to launch a public awareness campaign about the network, known as the Circuit, that highlights where and how residents of Pennsylvania and New Jersey can use the trails for recreation, commuting, and fitness.
When complete, the network will include seven hundred and fifty miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails in the Greater Philadelphia region, three hundred miles of which have been built to date. According to Andrew Johnson, director of the foundation's Watershed Protection Program, most of the unbuilt trails follow abandoned rail lines and cross contaminated industrial lands, which are expensive to restore but which will serve as essential links in the network.
"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 Johnson. "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."