By Marian Dennis, The Mercury
POTTSTOWN >> The Schuylkill River Trail has won a Reader’s Choice online contest between 20 trail systems nationwide at USAToday.com, according to a press release.
A group of travel and outdoor recreation experts nominated the 20 trail systems located near major U.S. cities for “best urban trail.” The Schuylkill River Trail, which stretches from Philadelphia to Phoenixville for 26 miles, and from Pottstown to Reading, also has paved spur trails that bring the total mileage to more than 60 miles. That includes the 20-mile Perkiomen Trail, from Oaks to Green Lane in Montgomery County, and a six-mile Chester County spur from just outside Phoenixville in Cromby to Parkerford.
“We are thrilled that the Schuylkill River Trail has taken the number one spot,” said Joseph Syrnick, president and CEO of Schuylkill River Development Corporation (SRDC), in the press release. “Certainly, we have seen the trail become more and more popular, and this honor validates the hard work and investment made by many entities.”
“We were happy it was nominated and that it won out over a lot of other really great trails,” said Laura Catalano, communications director for the Schuylkill River Heritage Area in Pottstown. “It speaks to the fact that the trail is becoming a regional destination… Not only is it a great trail because it’s beautiful and goes through a lot of great landscapes but also because it’s growing and attracting a lot of people.”
The Schuylkill River Trail is in the process of expansion, according to the press release. With the help of the Circuit Coalition — made up of 43 organizations dedicated to trail development in the region — enormous efforts have been made to connect sections of the Schuylkill River Trail and promote the trail as a single entity. The press release says that when complete, the Schuylkill River Trail is projected to be nearly 130 miles long and will be a key corridor of the Circuit, a planned 750-mile network of bicycle and pedestrian trails.
“The Schuylkill River Trail is an iconic part of the Circuit that we look forward to watching expand,” said Sarah Clark-Stuart, the chair of the Circuit Coalition, in the press release. “When complete, pedestrians and cyclists will have greater access to trails for recreation and transportation in addition to a gateway to open green space and the river.”
Catalano expressed similar excitement about the planned expansion.
“The Pottstown section is a beautiful section,” said Catalano. “Riverfront Park attracts a lot of people and when you can get from Philadelphia to Pottstown it will be an even greater trail. I’m looking forward to it. It has made a great use of the waterfront and it just opened up and made it accessible for people to see how beautiful the river is. And that’s especially true in Pottstown.”
An exciting offshoot for the Schuylkill River Trail in West Norriton is the Sullivan’s Bridge being built across the Schyulkill River to the Valley Forge National Historical Park. Work on the $9.3 million, 14-foot wide, pedestrian bridge began in May 2014. It will replace a rickety, 3-foot-wide boardwalk-style pedestrian/bicycle walkway bolted onto the side of the Route 422 bridge. That narrow outrigger was built after the Betzwood Bridge was demolished in 1995.