Philly region's Circuit Trails get millions to complete hundreds of miles in trail projects

Federal funding is designed to help expand the trail network to more than 500 miles in two years
Schuylkill River Trail.
Schuylkill River Trail. Photo credit The Circuit Trails

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Outdoor trails for walking, biking or running in our region have grown quite popular over the years.

A recent $7 million cash infusion for the Circuit Trails means that many trail projects across Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey will be near completion.

Whether it’s the Schuylkill River Trail in Center City or the Upper Bucks Trail which will connect people to downtown Quakertown, the Circuit Trails are for enjoying nature, just taking a mental health break, or multiple other purposes.

“There's walking your dog. There's walking with your children,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

“That's why they're called multipurpose. They really are sort of a jack of all trades for healthy recreation and healthy commuting.”

The trail network is growing in size each year. Right now, there are more than 370 miles of completed multi-use trails, with a goal of more than 800 miles of interconnected trails across a nine-county region in Pennsylvania and New Jersey by 2040. It will include links to New York City, Washington, D.C., and the Appalachian Trail.

“The idea behind having a network of these high-quality trails is that it connects people to open spaces, to parks, to employment centers, to education centers, and to themselves,” said Clark Stuart.

Circuit Trails Coalition Vice Chair Patrick Starr says they have a goal of 500 miles of circuit trails — more than half the system — by 2025.

“Since we first announced the circuit trails as about a 750-mile system, people want more trails,” said Starr. “I'd say that our appetite for trails also just keeps expanding. People want more of them.”

In December, the Senate Appropriations Committee released its $1.7 trillion Omnibus Appropriations bill for 2023, with over $7 million going to the Circuit Trails.

Starr said a good trail has well-maintained surfaces, good connections in the neighborhood, clear signage and great scenery. The Schuylkill River Trail offers a great example.

“It comes right out of Center City and then goes up through Fairmount Park,” said Starr. “It's an attractive, beautiful place to be where there are lots of all kinds of Philadelphians enjoying themselves. It's probably our poster child of a trail. It's perfect in so many ways.”

According to data from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, national trail use in 2022 increased by 45% in comparison to 2019, showing a demand for trails across the country.

Featured Image Photo Credit: The Circuit Trails