In February, Governor Wolf announced his plan for spending $1.7 billion in state American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to address various needs throughout Pennsylvania. This funding source may sound familiar as the Circuit Trails Coalition released their call to action urging local officials to prioritize these federal funds toward the Circuit. Of the $1.7 billion in ARP funds, $500 million has been allocated into a Growing Greener III. Growing Greener was established in 1999 and has a significant legacy of success. So what is Growing Greener and how can this move the Circuit forward?

The use of ARP funds for a Growing Greener III constitutes an investment in capital projects that address environmental priorities in three key areas: Conserving land and water resources; Restoring damaged waterways and land; and Creating prosperous and sustainable communities. The final key area, creating prosperous and sustainable communities will provide funding for programs that green communities; enhance urban waterways and riverfronts; preserve historic structures and landscapes; and create parks, recreation areas, greenways, and trails.

A Circuit success story from a Growing Greener II grant allowed Lower Merion Township to further develop the Cynwyd Heritage Trail in Montgomery County back in 2015. The grant was awarded by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and allocated money for trailhead improvements. The design included a main 12-foot wide asphalt path and narrower secondary walking path constructed of crushed gravel. Today, the Cynwyd Heritage Trail is a regional favorite and brings connections to the Schuylkill River Trail and the future of the Mainline Greenway.

The Bicycle Coalition recently engaged with the Growing Greener Coalition for the latest on this funding opportunity and how the Circuit Trails Coalition can successfully advocate for the prioritization of trails in order to reach the short-term goal of 500 completed miles by 2025. If you’ve been following this campaign, we have roughly 90 miles to go in order to reach this goal. On the Pennsylvania side of the regional network, 83 miles of trail have been identified as pipeline status. A trail in pipeline means various entities are actively working to move these trails forward by conducting studies, acquiring rights-of-way, engaging local communities, or laying the groundwork to obtain funding for design and construction. This once in a generation funding opportunity can accelerate the development of trails that are in the pipeline status greatly.

So what can be done right now to ensure the Circuit Trails are prioritized for ARP funds in Growing Greener III? First, you’ll want to find your legislator, contact your state senator and representative and address the following:

  1. Describe your community’s need for a boost in state investments toward the development of the Circuit Trails.
  2. Note that the state’s remaining ARP funds provide an opportunity to address these needs to connect our communities, which in effect will lower gas emissions, create sustainable communities and improve access to our waterways and open spaces for all.
  3. Ask them to support legislative initiatives (often referred to as “Growing Greener III”) to make these investments happen and note that Growing Greener has funded the Circuit in previous initiatives.

The plan moving forward will involve sharing more information on this funding opportunity as we continue to learn more from our friends at the Growing Greener Coalition. Keep an eye out for updates from us and the Circuit Trails Coalition as we develop an action plan and strategy to push the Circuit forward in the southeastern region of Pennsylvania. Questions? You can contact our Regional Organizer, Patrick Monahan at patrick@bicyclecoalition.org.

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