Turning Trail Pipe Dreams Into Possibilities

Patrick Starr, the Executive Vice President of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Vice Chair of the Circuit Trails Coalition, recently visited the potential Tookany Creek Trail. Read on below to see what Patrick learned on his tour with representatives from the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership. 


To build 500 miles of the Circuit by 2025, we need to accelerate the build “rate” of trails. Illustrating how this is a collaboration amongst Circuit Trails partners, this week Julie Slavet, Robin Irizarry, and Frankie Lazauskas, Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF) led a tour of the potential Tookany Creek Trail for Henry Stroud (Montco Planning Commission), Leonard Bonarek, (Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia) and myself (Pennsylvania Environmental Council).

I had asked Julie about this trail months ago, as we are starting the “shake the Circuit Trail tree” to get at trail projects. The low-hanging fruit are largely built or well underway with a pipeline of funded and designed trails that is already exceeding 100 miles. We need more!

When I asked Julie about the status of the Tookany, she expressed a bit of frustration that it wasn’t moving, but she was all in to get it moving! When I spoke with Henry, it is definitely on the Montco trails plan, but it isn’t a priority. There was by all a sense that Cheltenham Township was “taking care of it.”

What I saw on our tour is so very exciting! Along the “gateway” portion that would connect into the existing Tacony Trail in Philadelphia is an opportunity to provide a safe bike lane that would enhance safety for motorists and pedestrians by better managing speed and flow. Moving deeper into the Township there were intriguing opportunities to enhance existing trail infrastructure that is already heavily used by local residents in the form of running/walking trails all the way to High School Park.


An existing Township investment in a new sewer main, in one stretch from Wall Park to Central Avenue, is essentially clearing and building the Tookany Trail while laying the new pipe, but the Trail isn’t incorporated. Had the specs called for it, a multi-purpose trail could be right on top of the main. In fact, utility right of ways such as sewer lines and power lines are often trail opportunities if compatibly managed.


One thing I know is that Cheltenham Township is a progressive, forward-thinking community. Two times, PEC collaborated with the Township to prepare grant proposals to fund planning for portions of the trail that would connect to the SEPTA’s Wyncote and Glenside regional rail stations. Although both were declined, I know the Township is thinking about the inter-modal opportunity presented by the Tookany Trail that links together numerous and exciting community assets including a couple of public schools.

The exciting part is that the Tookany Trail is NOT currently a part of the Circuit Trails pipeline. If we could advance this trail project, by undertaking a feasibility assessment, I see what is now a “pipe dream” quickly materializing into a ripe and delicious low-hanging fruit trail project. With effective partners like Cheltenham Township, which recently adopted a municipal resolution endorsing 500 miles of Circuit Trails by 2025, the capable MCPC staff, and the indefatigable TTF Watershed Partnership, well, I hate to make predictions, but I think some of it could be built by 2025!

Patrick Starr is the Vice-Chair of the Circuit Trails Coalition for Pennsylvania and is the Executive Vice-President of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. 

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