No matter where you go in Chester County, you will find lots of people who are interested in trails. These trails provide unique experiences and places for residents and visitors to exercise and relax, and the County has been working to expand its trail system.
Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline, Kathi Cozzone and Terence Farrell took the opportunity to highlight the County’s growing trail network during their recent public meeting. To start out, the Commissioners adopted a resolution to signify the completion of the Chester Valley Trail West Study that was financed in part by the Community Conservation Partnerships Program grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.
“Our trails and open spaces are such an important part of the strong quality of place in Chester County,” said Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline. “In addition to providing recreational benefits that contribute to the positive health of those who live here, trails are becoming an important component of the county’s multimodal transportation network.”
The Chester Valley Trail West plan identified a route for extending the popular trail westward across the county through the following municipalities: Downingtown, Caln, Coatesville, Valley, Parkesburg, Sadsbury, West Sadsbury, and Atglen. The goal of the study was to identify and evaluate potential routes for extending the trail westward and connecting with the in-progress multiuse Enola Low Grade Trail located just outside of Atglen in Lancaster County. The study also sought to identify potential linkages to nearby points of interest and examined “Trail Town” precedents for using a long-distance, multiuse trail to spark recreation-centered economic development.
The recommended alignment for the Chester Valley Trail West is over 20 miles long and includes both multiuse trails and connecting on-road routes. Accordingly, the alignment has been divided into nine segments, each of which could be developed separately. When complete, the trail will connect with the Enola Low Grade Trail and the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail to the west and the Schuylkill River Trail to the east, becoming a key part of what will one day be over 120 miles of a continuous trail network between Harrisburg and Philadelphia.
Other projects related to the existing Chester Valley Trail are moving forward. The 1-mile extension of the Chester Valley Trail from Main Street at Exton to the Oaklands Corporate Center is anticipated to go to construction in spring 2020. In addition, the Chester Valley Trail’s crossing of Route 100 will be improved from a three-way intersection to a single crossing of Route 100 at Commerce Drive. This project will begin construction in late 2019 and will be constructed in conjunction with a multiuse trail along Route 100 connecting Main Street at Exton and the Chester Valley Trail to the Exton Train Station. These projects are being funded by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Regional Trails Program and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Automated Red Light Enforcement Program.
“We are pleased to hear that different aspects of either developing or enhancing the popular Chester Valley Trail are moving forward,” stated Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone. “The Connect goal of Landscapes3, the County’s comprehensive plan, calls for the development and implementation of a countywide trail network that includes expanding the Circuit, Greater Philadelphia’s regional multiuse trail network, and connecting local trails.”
A new report, Return on Environment: The Economic Value of Protected Open Space in Chester County, has demonstrated the valuable economic, environmental and public health benefits that open space preservation has provided.
“Access to protected open space, trails and local parks supports healthy lifestyles and contributes to a strong workforce,” noted Commissioner Terence Farrell. “In fact, recreational activities on open space account for over $324 million in avoided costs for medical care, workers’ compensation, and lost worker productivity.”
To bring these numbers to a more understandable scale, the Return on Environment includes a case study that focuses on multiuse trails with specific attention to the Chester Valley Trail. Approximately 310,000 people walked, ran, and biked along the trail in 2018 alone, according to Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission data. The trail also boosts nearby home values and businesses use it to attract and retain employees.
In northern Chester County, the construction contract for the Schuylkill River Trail will be awarded by the end of the year, and construction will begin in early 2020 on about 4 miles of new trail between Parkerford and the 422 Bridge over the Schuylkill River. In addition, about 5 miles of trail between Parkerford and the Cromby Road Trailhead that is currently surfaced with stone dust will be paved with asphalt. This project will be funded by the federally funded competitive Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality improvement program.
The Chester County Planning Commission, in conjunction with partner agencies, is beginning a feasibility study for a multiuse trail in southern Chester County that would connect to the Circuit Trails network. This project is being funded by the William Penn Foundation through Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Regional Trails Program.