Trail Repairs Invite Increased Use

Philadelphia, PA | December 2013 | By National Recreation and Park Association

Trail Repairs Invite Increased Use 410

Nestled in the northern reaches of Philadelphia, Pennypack Park creates a swath of green oasis in the midst of urban neighborhoods and development.

“This is an older area that’s very well used by the community,” says Kathi Muller, director of strategic initiatives at the City of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation department in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The user population is so diverse, she continues, “that if you’re walking on the Pennypack trail you’ll probably hear 15 or 20 different languages spoken.”

The 1,300-acre watershed park surrounds Pennypack Creek and is part of the 10,200-acre Fairmount Park system. Upper and lower trails that run along the back of the park’s environmental center have both experienced erosion over the years, and the lower trail is almost completely washed out, says Muller. Since the trails are close to the building, these paths are used frequently.

A Great American Trails grant provided the funding necessary to repair the upper trail — including recycled lumber borders and vegetative ground cover to help prevent future erosion. “We’re trying to create trails that novices would be comfortable hiking on, so we can introduce more people to outdoor experiences,” Muller says.

Grant dollars also provided a bench, markers that identify native plants and trees, a bike rack that will help attract more young people, and the replacement of five bollard lights near the nature center that had fallen into disrepair. The grant also paid for installation of a rain barrel garden, capturing rainwater from the environmental center’s roof, that can be used as a demonstration and teaching garden.

As trail restorations were underway, the park system partnered with an Eagle Scout who organized a project to replace decaying steps and a handrail that led from the upper trail to the lower trail. Grant dollars paid for the new steps and handrail, while the Eagle Scout organized the labor and installation.

“This was an opportunity to fund some projects that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” Muller says. “These projects help us to make sure that the center and trails are family-friendly as we’re engaging more users, especially young people.”

After the pavilion was constructed in the fall of 2013, LongHorn Steakhouse volunteers helped to install native vegetation. Nearly 20 volunteers worked with city staff and the city’s urban forester, who directed them in planting the native shrubs and trees.

“It was very helpful. We appreciated the assistance that they were willing to give us and their attitude— we felt that they wanted to be there and were happy to be a part of the project,” Hill says. He expects that the partnership will continue through parks programs, particularly with annual Arbor Day events.

This respite area project was possible only through the grant, Hill says. “We really didn’t have the funds to purchase and build the structure,” Hill says. “We may have been able to do a little landscaping, but that really wouldn’t have met the need that was there.”