Earlier this week, the Circuit Trails Coalition held their Semi-Annual meeting.  The Coalition reviewed their recently approved 2021 – 2025 strategic plan, got a Circuit Trails milage update from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), reviewed the implementation of the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) study in Cobbs Creek from the Clean Air Council and more.

2021 – 2025 Strategic Plan

Back in June of this year, the Circuit Trails Coalition developed a team who began the process of creating a plan for the nonprofit members of the Circuit Trails Coalition. Their analysis informed this plan with support from OpinionWorks research study. The Coalition is committed to their campaign goal to reach 500 completed miles of trail by 2025. In order to reach our goal, we developed a refined mission and values as the Coalition looks ahead to 2025.

The Circuit Trails Coalition Mission:

The mission of the Circuit Trails Coalition is to raise the profile of multi-use trails and their public benefits so that the Circuit Trails network becomes a completed and widely used significant regional project. The successful execution of the goals in this plan will enable the 65 Coalition members, working with an active Steering Committee of elected member representatives, to fulfill this mission.

Over the next three years, the Circuit Trails Coalition will:

  • Expand the Circuit Trails network, adding miles and making it more accessible and inclusive
  • Expand the Circuit Trails community, increasing the diversity of trail users
  • Expand the Circuit Trails Coalition, making it more relevant and representative
  • Secure maintenance funding for trails in under-resourced communities

The strategic planning writing team has since then engaged with agency partners, implemented objectives to include the JEDI study and developed a final draft of the plan. In October, the writing team presented the strategic plan to the Circuit Trails Steering Committee for review and again for official approval. The plan is now being reviewed by the Steering Committee and implemented into the organization’s work plan toward 2025.

DVRPC’s Circuit Trails Mileage Update

DVRPC’s Manager of Regional Trails Program presented on the milage update and the recent highlights since May 2021 throughout the region. Overall, 358 miles of Circuit Trails are now complete. About 4.5 miles have been added so far this year, with an additional 1.9 expected before year’s end. Over 15 miles estimated to be completed and opened next year. See the graph below which captures the number of miles that are existing, in progress, in the pipeline and planned along the Circuit Trails network. See DVRPC’s Circuit Trails map for more on where these segments connect along the network.

If you joined us for our Explore the Circuit ride along the Delaware River Heritage Trail (DRHT) in Burlington County back in June, then you rode across the NJ Transit Riverline Crossing which is among the six Circuit highlights since May of this year. Further south along the DRHT in Camden County, the Cramer Hill Waterfront Park is now open to the public and provides amazing views of the city of Philadelphia that connects trail users to Cooper River, Petty’s Island, High Point Park and of course, the 62-acre waterfront park.

A recent win and major highlight as of this week was the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Scudder Falls Bridge Trail. The Bicycle Coalition has been involved for the past 18 years by advocating, and assisting with the planning and developing the design of the bridge to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians who can now safely connect between Mercer County’s D&R Canal Trail and Bucks County’s D&L Trail. Read the full story on the planning and development of the Scudder Falls Bridge Trail here.

In Montgomery County, progress along the Cross County Trail continues. Earlier this year, we rode 5+ miles of the Cross County Trail on our Explore the Circuit ride and invited the Montgomery County Planning Commission who gave riders an overview of the trail’s progress and purpose once the trail is completed. The recently completed segment is located near PA 309 and connects riders to Lifetime and TruMark businesses. The priority right now is to acquire right-of-way and funds to build connections across Germantown Pike which currently connects to the Schuylkill River Trail in Conshohocken.

The Bartram’s segment of Schuylkill Banks, which runs along the west bank of the Schuylkill River between Grays Ferry Ave and 56th street has been extended near 61st street. This development is lead by the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and will eventually connect to the Grays Ferry Crescent via the Schuylkill Crossing. This newest segment was celebrated early this month with elected officials, the City of Philadelphia, Schuylkill River Development Corporation and community members to cut the ribbon to the newest segment.

Just outside of the Greater Philadelphia Region in Berks County, the recently opened Whittaker Bridge along the Schuylkill River Trail celebrated their ribbon cutting ceremony with great support. This pedestrian bridge crosses over Route 724 in Union Township to improve safety and accessibility. Previously, many trail users would turn at this point because the high volumes of traffic made the space uninviting to continue forward.

Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) Study

At the previous Circuit Trails Semi-Annual meeting in May, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council presented a study on equity of access to trails. The Clean Air Council implemented that study that asked: how can trail organizations engage, motivate, and welcome underrepresented trail users? The trail study results revealed that people want access and care for nature, but need to feel welcomed first. Here’s an overview of the questions that were turned into actions and their results.

How can trail organizations engage, motivate, and welcome underrepresented trail users?
    • Welcoming programming
      • Results: The best way to overcome a subtle lack of welcome into public spaces, focus group participants said, is to offer compelling and irresistible activities and events and actually invite people into those public spaces, wholeheartedly. Many people want to be on the trail with a friend or in a group, both for fellowship and to alleviate their safety concerns.
    • Inviting infrastructure
      • Results: Examples of places to gather and relax could include places to picnic and BBQ, playgrounds, and benches and other places to sit. People hoped for better maintenance of the trail surface, lighting in certain areas, and easier or safer access points including adequate parking. Study groups suggested that signage could tie into the Circuit Trails Network, not just pointing the way to the local trail, but also indicating further destinations that could be accessed through the regional trail network, to enhance that thirst for exploration.
    • Creative greening
      • Results: Residents hope for accessible places where they can dip out of their normal world and dip in to a peaceful, green environment, even if only for a short time.
    • Authentic outreach
      • Results: Many people in these focus groups asked for more traditional and interpersonal means of communication propagated in the neighborhood – flyers handed out door-to-door, conversations, and traditional mail.
Building meaningful partnerships for Environmental Justice

A few resources that were shared with the Circuit Trails Coalition that anyone in this field can benefit from include learning how you can create meaningful partnerships with BIPOC and Environmental Justice (EJ) communities and organizations. Many white-led and dominant organizations are seeking to partner more effectively with BIPOC-led and EJ organizations. Meaningful partnerships, however, take work. Often what we think of as “partnerships” are misguided, transactional relationships with individuals, communities and organizations. To form meaningful partnerships that are not grounded in white supremacy and white saviorism, we must center establishing trust and building mutual respect. See the registration links to the training session and affinity group registration below.

Thursday, December 9, 1:00 – 2:30pm
Training session registration

Monday, December 13, 1:00 – 2:00pm
Affinity group registration

We cannot thank the William Penn Foundation enough for their support across the 65+ organizations that advance the Circuit Trails network. If you have interest in joining the Circuit Coalition, please consider becoming a Circuit Supporter by joining the Coalition and sending a letter on behalf of your organization. There are also many ways to get involved which include becoming a Circuit Citizen, joining your County’s Action Team or signing up for the newsletter.

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