For several months now we have been receiving complaints about what appears to be indiscriminate clear-cutting along the Schuylkill River Trail between Shawmont and Conshohocken. 

Amtrak owns the overhead catenary wires on the former Schuylkill Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad which helps power the Amtraks NE Corridor and Keystone Lines as well as SEPTA trains. It’s not too often that you’ll find complaints about Amtrak on the blog. We love their trains and expanding bike-on rail access, but when it comes to the operations and maintenance of right-of-way issues they can be quite difficult to deal with. 

Over the weekend of September 9th and 10th, an Amtrak transmission wire came down and set a tree on fire between Shawmont and the Montgomery County Line. This may been caused by a line of thunderstorms that crossed the area late on Saturday, September 9th. We got our first report of clear-cutting on the Philadelphia side a few days later. When we asked Montgomery County Parks Director, Dave Clifford about it we found out that Amtrak did not initially contact the County before clear-cutting began.

Eventually, Michelle Harris, Montgomery Parks Region 1 Manager of Montgomery County Parks, Trails, & Historic Sites was able to contact Amtrak. Amtrak was resolute in its plan to clear-cut the corridor site and Harris was unable to convince them to save the old-growth trees. The County only has a small easement, just 20 feet, only a few feet wider than the trail itself.

The County has asked people who are concerned about the clear-cutting to contact Amtrak directly (1-800-USA-RAIL). We expect Amtrak to be good neighbors and environmental stewards by remediating the area damaged by the clear-cutting and improving the aesthetics of the trail’s viewshed.

Photo Credit: Pat Morrisey Jackson on the Facebook Group – Friends of the Schuylkill River Trail

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia leads the movement to make every bicycle ride safe, to empower youth and adults to ride, and to foster a ridership that reflects the diversity of the region. Right now the Bicycle Coalition is asking 700 folks to join or renew their support for another year to continue that advocacy and education work. More info here.

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