Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Update on the Schuylkill River Trail in Chester County

Despite the bitter cold on Wednesday circumstances were ripe for me to take a field trip to the only major trail currently under construction in the region, the Schuylkill River Trail between Cromby, Spring City and Parkers Ford. Basically the segment is between located between two giant power stations. Cromby (Coal and Natural Gas) and Limerick (Nuclear) which is across the river and slightly upstream from Parkers Ford where Chester County's phase 1 trail segment ends.

I rented a Zipcar and parked in a shopping center in Spring City, The trail is on the west bank of the Schuylkill. The trail is graded but rough going upstream toward Parkers Ford but I observed a packed gravel surface going toward Cromby. So I mounted my folding bike and headed south.

The "trail closed" signs at each road crossing made me feel like an outlaw but it was too late to turn back. The tightly packed gravel offered little resistance to my Dahon which is very sensitive to rough terrain. The trail was paved approaching a railroad bridge over the old Schuylkill Canal and around the Cromby plant. Less than two miles from my start point I saw construction crews working on what appears to be a new trailhead parking area. The parallel Spring City Rd has little traffic but the winding somewhat hilly road made me appreciate the new mostly flat trail even more.

South of the parking area the trail construction zone ends at Township Line Rd on the border of Phoenixville. For 2011 and most of 2012 through cyclists will have to negotiate borough streets to get to the existing Schuylkill River Trail (a project to create a temporary on-road route is reportedly in the works).

The twin boroughs of Spring City and Royersford offer plenty of services. There are several food stores and restaurants adjacent to the trail on Bridge St. Both communities have traditional downtowns that have had streetscape facelifts, more so in Royersford which is developing its own waterfront park. SEPTA bus 139 stops just a few hundred feet from the Bridge St trail crossing. It's a couple of time consuming connections to Center City but it will be possible take public transportation to the trail and bike back into Philadelphia. Spring City also has an historic hotel. These two communities are well positioned to become important trail towns.