Expanding the Circuit Trails Coalition Community Grant Program

This blog was first published on the Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s blog on February 29, 2024.

The Circuit Trails Coalition Community Grant Program is expanding thanks to new federal funding, allowing the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) to support more nonprofit organizations doing incredible work along the Philadelphia-area trail network.

In 2023 PEC launched the Circuit Trails Coalition Community Grant Program with funding from the William Penn Foundation, initially investing $150,000 over two years into 10 organizations across the Greater Philadelphia region. Each grantee organization leads programming on or near multi-use trails that are part of the Circuit Trails network, which currently encompasses 410 miles of completed trails.

Now, with an additional $167,000 from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, PEC has awarded two-year grants to another six organizations, bringing the total number of 2024 Circuit Trails Community Grant Program grantee partners to 16.

NFWF funding will also allow Legacy Land & Water Partners to offer fishing and birding programming in partnership with all Community Grant Program grantees across the trail network in 2024 and 2025, bringing fishing and birding to groups across the region.

The Community Grant Program intends to improve access to and increase use of the Circuit Trails, particularly in historically disinvested communities and among marginalized groups. In 2023, grantee partners offered projects, activities, and activations including tree plantings, bike riding lessons, fishing, hiking, tactical urbanism, art installations, and more, encouraging people to enjoy group activities on trails across Philadelphia, Chester, Camden, and Trenton. These grantees will continue their work in 2024.

Six new grantees will further increase access to outdoor recreation in the region through community-based, culturally relevant projects and programs, described below.

AIM Academy

AIM Academy serves students with language-based learning differences at its campus directly adjacent to the Schuylkill River Trail. With support from this new round of Community Grant Program funding, AIM will incorporate paddling on the Schuylkill River into its cycling programming, increasing access to water-based recreation for its student body.

East Falls Development Corporation

East Falls Development Corporation (EFDC) will add seating and signage to the River Landing, a new ADA accessible access point to the Schuylkill River that fills a critical need for recreation space and connection to waterways for the entire region. The project will create a more inviting, safer public space. EFDC will also offer opportunities on or near the Landing for people to meditate and gather.

Girls In Gear

Girls In Gear teaches life skills through bike skills by helping riders ages 5+ build confidence on and off their bikes, promoting girls’ social-emotional wellness. Girls In Gear will use Circuit Trails Community Grant Program funding to host 200 riders across five program sites in Philadelphia, Camden, and Trenton, as well as a learn-to-ride clinic in the spring and fall.

Neighborhood Bike Works

Neighborhood Bike Works (NBW) uses bike rides, repair lessons, and field trips to improve young people’s mental and physical health, build problem-solving skills, foster excitement for outdoor adventure, and spur social and emotional development. Community Grant Program funding will support Watershed Trailblazers, a group of NBW programs that include an environmental education component — drawing attention to and promoting the use of the Delaware River Trail, Schuylkill River Trail, and other Circuit Trails.

Neighborhood Collaborative Community Gardens

Neighborhood Collaborative Community Gardens (NCCG) encourages residents of North Camden to be the stewards of their own community by cleaning and greening their neighborhood, including community gardens directly on the Circuit Trails network. NCCG will host family-friendly environmental education programming across its garden sites.

She Is Focused & Fit

She Is Focused is committed to engaging urban women and girls with the outdoors while also facilitating self-development and personal growth. She Is Focused Community will use the grant funding to lead Philly Focused & Fit, an initiative that uses the bike and other physical activities, such as walking and running, as tools to enhance overall quality of life and wellbeing.

To learn more about the Circuit Trails Community Grant Program and explore the Circuit Trails network, visit https://circuittrails.org. There, you can also learn more about the 10 organizations that have already benefitted from the program, like Hike + Heal, which aims to make the outdoors more accessible to women through curated hikes and wellness events, and Healing Through the Land, which offers free workshops and resources to women of color intended to reconnect to historical practices and cultivate new traditions that promote health and community.

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